Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Godrej, Farah. “The neoliberal yogi and the politics of yoga.” Political Theory 45, no. 6 (2017): 772-800.

DOI: 10.1177/0090591716643604

Can the theory and practice of the yogic tradition serve as a challenge to dominant cultural and political norms in the Western world? In this essay I demonstrate that modern yoga is a creature of fabrication, while arguing that yogic norms can simultaneously reinforce and challenge the norms of contemporary Western neoliberal societies. In its current and most common iteration in the West, yoga practice does stand in danger of reinforcing neoliberal constructions of selfhood. However, yoga does contain ample resources for challenging neoliberal subjectivity, but this requires reading the yogic tradition in a particular way, to emphasize certain philosophical elements over others, while directing its practice toward an inward-oriented detachment from material outcomes and desires. Contemporary claims about yoga’s counterhegemonic status often rely on exaggerated notions of its former “purity” and “authenticity,” which belie its invented and retrospectively reconstructed nature. Rather than engaging in these debates about authenticity, scholars and practitioners may productively turn their energies toward enacting a resistant, anti-neoliberal practice of yoga, while remaining self-conscious about the particularity and partiality of the interpretive position on which such a practice is founded.

yoga, neoliberalism, biopolitics, Bhagavad-Gīta, Yōga-Sūtras, Patanjali, authenticity

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