Last updated: 23 march, 2009 - 12:23 GMT

7/02/2009 - The Forum

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Psychotherapist Susie Orbach argues that as our body becomes something that can be manufactured and modified at will, rather than something given to us at birth, more and more of us find imaginary faults in our bodies and demand they be 'fixed'.

She says that now, for the first time, the ideal body is not that of a real, natural person but of a digitally enhanced, surgically adjusted non-person, which exists only on the marketeers' computers but which millions of women throughout the world are trying to emulate with their real bodies.

Lessons from history are something many people are pondering as they survey the world's plummeting economy.

But Canadian historian Margaret Macmillan warns that too much faith in history can lead you down a dangerous blind alley.

History, she says, is useful and enjoyable but should be handled with care. So pick your analogy carefully and be wary of making judgements with hindsight.

American writer Tom Perrotta finds that in a diverse, mobile, 21st century society, it's easier to offend your neighbour than you might think. Both protagonists of Perrotta's new novel, The Abstinence Teacher, manage to offend a large part of their respective communities, without meaning to, or even realising what they're doing.

And Perrotta also discovers that the new Culture Wars in modern US suburbia are producing rich material for a contemporary novelist: for a start, 21st century rebels are not who you first think they are.

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