Currently preparing a talk at Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznań (Poland) on 21 April, 2022, to be titled: Neoliberal Well-being and Therapeutic Government: What Happens When we Privatize Emotional Life?

20 Mar

The contemporary obsession with the personal well-being of the individual has prompted critics to describe the present age as therapeutic.  Today, the management of personal well-being through self-help, mindfulness and other expert technologies has come to replace those other governmental functions once managed by the state and other institutions.  Perhaps as a consequence of the intensification of neoliberal privatization, post-modern fragmentation or the intrinsic reflexivity of late modernity, in the current moment agents charged with the regulation of personal well-being have become central to contemporary practices of steering, government and control.  In this discussion Professor Sam Binkley (Emerson College, USA) will trace the contributions of one train of thought on the rise of therapeutic culture originating in the work of Michel Foucault, and popularized in recent years under the rubric of governmentality theory.  Against the backdrop of a critical reflection on neoliberal governmentalities, the discussion will trace some contemporary developments in the government of well-being and self-care as they are expressed in the American and global context.  Well-being is, in this sense, expressed through the lens of economic self-interest in a manner that suppresses the relational or social qualities of personal life.  Specifically, the discussion will consider three scenarios: first, the explosive interest in happiness and emotional flourishing will be examined as both a state of personal well being but also as an economic and social asset.  Next, a reflection on practices of racial and cultural diversity will describe how the reconstruction of whiteness as a problem of privilege ultimately serves the ends of the privatization of racial affect.  And finally, a reflection on trauma and current global conflicts will examine the ways in which therapeutic discourse privatizes the ultimately social character of traumatic events.  


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