Against Flourishing: Wellbeing as biopolitics, and the psychoanalytic alternative

C. Wright


This article critically analyzes what is at stake in the recenttranslation of the term ‘happiness’ into the inter-related terms ‘well-being’and ‘flourishing’ within Happiness Studies. Focussing on the work of MartinSeligman, the article argues that the category of ‘flourishing’ in particularhighlights Happiness Studies and positive psychology as a new, neoliberalinterpretation of utilitarianism. This is supported with reference to MichelFoucault’s late lectures at the Collège de France on the connections betweenneoliberalism and the direct political administration of life that he termed‘biopolitics’, a concept which explains the interweaving of health andhappiness in today’s dominant therapeutic cultures. Finally, the articleattempts to outline a radical alternative to the biopolitical notion of‘flourishing’ by appealing to psychoanalysis, specifically Lacanianpsychoanalysis - its critique of consumer happiness, but also its clinicalcommitment to working transformatively with unhappiness.


Jacques Lacan; Michel Foucault; Martin Seligman

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