I recently read a couple of Foucault’s later lectures, namely Security, Territory, Population (1977-1978) and The Birth of Biopolitics (1978-1979). In this latter set of lectures, Foucault made a rare foray into contemporary economics, analysing various currents of neoliberalism (especially German and US varieties) and their relation to new forms of governmentality. I thought it beneficial, if only for me, to jot down a few notes on Foucault’s reconstruction of neoliberal thought, because I think it particularly pertinent in understanding contemporary knowledge and practice in mental health. I have a paper forthcoming in an academic journal on this topic, and perhaps after this post, I can move onto other things in 2016. Continue reading
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.