A Note on ‘Wellbeing’


I have previously had occasion to contrast the fetish for ‘wellbeing’ (and its cognates) with psychoanalysis’ emphasis on bien-dire, the well-said.

According to Foucault, the term wellbeing (bien-être) began to make an appearance in the 18th Century, specifically as an objective of policing. ‘Policing’ in this period was understood to encompass governmental functions broader than the mere detection of crime, and could relate to matters of economic, educative or medical concern. The objective of policing was ‘wellbeing’ of individuals  insofar as this was defined as “the necessary, the useful, the proper and the pleasant”, and in such a way “that the well-being of individuals is the state’s strength”.

So much for ‘wellbeing’, and its origins in policing and social control.

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