Philosophy of Tracklocross – Madness and Civilisation

foucault on traclocross cycling

The philosopher with a name that is so often mispronounced in the UK, I no longer know what his real name is. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to Michel Foucault. Foucault wants us to realise we should look back at history, bring back the ideas that work, and use them to question the beliefs and systems we use now. He used this argument many times to explain why the fixed gear bike was a better option than a geared bike when he looked back and did not serve our “modern” ideas.

In Madness and Civilisation, Foucault discusses his idea that during the Age of Reason (the late 17th century to the end of the Napoleonic wars), society started to confine those considered irregular to societal norms. Here, we began to see the use of asylums; people who did not conform to reason were locked away to help stop scandals.

The people inside these asylums were seen as beasts; they were no longer people. They were merely animals, and they were treated as such. The animal part of them protected them from human fragility. There was seen to be no medical reason for their madness; they could only be corrected through discipline and brutality. The mad became beasts because the humanity in them had been destroyed. An obsession with this animality grew; it was the reason for confinement. The animal part here threatened to destroy reason and order, and it was, in ways, anti-nature.

In the 15th century, a reasonable part of the population could observe and accept the world for what it is. The mad could see beyond these limits of experience and perception. As such, they had a kind of super knowledge or a bigger freedom than the rest of the population. Foucault tells us that Shakespeare and Cervantes were fascinated by these people on the fringes.

When the Age of Reason came, we no longer looked at these people with amazement. To preserve the new order, these mad, or now those suffering from unreason, were to be confined. The chaos presented by these madmen needed to be removed and silenced to prevent the deviancy from spreading.

As these poor people were now confined closely together, doctors came to study them. Slowly, they wanted to rehabilitate them and help shape them back into the reasonable masses. Foucault tells us of the three eras of madness. Firstly, madness is beyond reason; secondly, madness is the polar opposite of reason (unreason); thirdly, madness must be reshaped to fit reason.

Foucualt’s look of madness is similar to the story of tracklocross. At first, tracklocross riders were seen as mad, and the first cyclocross races (held on fixed gear bikes) were beyond the reason of road riding. Secondly, they were then shunned with the birth of the derailleur. You were seen as mad not to be riding with a derailleur. Now, we are seen as needing to be rehabilitated back into cycling culture. We need to accept derailleurs, Rapha, and Specialized.

Foucault would have ridden tracklocross.

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