The Jargon of Authenticity


For those who are interested, I have a paper in Arena magazine wherein, via Adorno, I explore the links between so-called positive psychology and fascism, militarism and neoliberal ideology. (The article is paywalled, but can be purchased more affordably than the typical academic paper).

The positive psychology movement, along with its like-minded siblings, can be understood as a disciplinary ideological apparatus. We should note, therefore, that whilst there are theoretical links between positive psychology and consumerism, militarism, etc, these links are not merely theoretical but also material. Positive psychology is widely promoted by mental health advocacy groups. It is deployed in workfare in Australia and elsewhere. Its guru, Martin Seligman, was a man who became famous for torturing dogs until they learnt helplessness. He now works for the US military and CIA, and his acolytes in psychology invented the ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques made infamous at Guantanamo. The head of Beyond Blue (an Australian mental health advocacy group) is none other than Jeff Kennett, a conservative politician best known for imposing austerity measures in government on the state of Victoria. Douglas Sneddon, director of mental health group the Black Dog Institute, is also a director of Transfield, the company given billions of dollars by the Australian government to oversee concentration camps for would-be asylum seekers. (There has recently been divestment from Transfield as a result of the extensive levels of rape and torture perpetrated in the camps). Between them, these two men have inflicted more psychological suffering than can be ameliorated by a millennium of ‘Are you ok?’ days. We should not hesitate to expose their ‘positive’ ideology whenever as the ethics-free, pseudoscientific attempt at panel-beating ‘human capital’ that it is. And when you hear the word ‘authenticity’, reach for your Adorno.


7 thoughts on “The Jargon of Authenticity

  1. Hi David, I read your Arena Magazine article last night. Loved your analogy of alcohol and CBT both achieving the same outcome. Mindfulness as devoid of meaning-making and self-regulating reflection…ouch. I look forward to reading more.

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