Autonomy is a vital concept in much of modern theory, defining the Subject as capable of self-governance. Democratic theory relies on the concept of autonomy to provide justification for participatory government and the normative goal of democratic governance, which is to protect the ability of the individual to self-govern.
Offering the first examination of the concept of autonomy from a postfoundationalist perspective, The Autonomous Animal analyzes how the ideal of self-governance has shaped everyday life. Claire E. Rasmussen begins by considering the academic terrain of autonomy, then focusing on specific examples of political behavior that allow her to interrogate these theories. She demonstrates how the adolescent—a not-yet-autonomous subject—highlights how the ideal of self-governance generates practices intended to cultivate autonomy by forming the individual’s relationship to his or her body. She points up how the war on drugs rests on the perception that drug addicts are the antithesis of autonomy and thus must be regulated for their own good. Showing that the animal rights movement may challenge the distinction between human and animal, Rasmussen also examines the place of the endurance athlete in fitness culture, where self-management of the body is the exemplar of autonomous subjectivity.