Foucault News

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

Bstieler, Michaela and Gianluca Crepaldi. “Working-Through Wellness: Critical Perspectives on the Contemporary Wellness Dispositif.” Genealogy+Critique 9, no. 1 (2023): 1–21. DOI:

In this paper, we examine the institutionalised demands and imperatives that govern the contemporary working subject. Our starting point is the thesis advanced by both Alain Ehrenberg and Eva Illouz that since the 1960s institutions are no longer characterised by a strict culture of prohibition and discipline. Instead, institutions seem to be increasingly animated by the norms and practices of a “culture of self-care”, enriched by therapeutisation (Ehrenberg) and emotionalisation (Illouz). However, this does not mean that the disciplinary regimes that Foucault focuses on are simply disappearing. They persist, albeit in a different form, and we demonstrate this by looking at three central aspects of contemporary wellness: (a) specific spatial arrangements, (b) the performance of bodily practices and techniques and (c) ritualised interactions. We argue that in wellness facilities disciplinary regimes become effective through interpellations that are inscribed in rigid temporal-spatial orders and demand the body’s docility. Insofar as this process relies on those norms that Ehrenberg and Illouz reserve for post-Fordist labour, the wellness space can ultimately be understood as a labour space. For what is at stake is the productivity of the subject.

Keywords: well-being, subjectivity, neoliberalism, labour, normativity, capitalism, temporality, Alain Ehrenberg, Eva Illouz, Michel Foucault

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