Mindful in Westminster: The politics of meditation and the limits of neoliberal critique

Joanna Cook


Analytically, the concept of neoliberalism helps to account for the relationship between forms of governance, self-governance, and capitalist market forces. But how do we decipher its limits? Taking political interest in mindfulness as my ethnographic focus, I explore theoretical categories of neoliberalism and “responsibilization” that cross-cut emerging forms of governance in contemporary British society. I chose this particular ethnographic focus in order to examine the multiple meanings and values invested in subjectification practices, and the ways in which diversity is maintained through the structure of political inquiry. I argue that practices of subjectification are never totalizing, that politico-economic concerns remain central to professional interest in self-governance, that subjectification practices may hold multiple and/or diverse meanings, and that the maintenance of this multiplicity is a motor of political process.


mindfulness, neoliberalism, governance, mental health, subjectification, responsiblization, meditation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.1.011