, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 371–394 | Cite as

Happiness, positive psychology and the program of neoliberal governmentality

  • Sam Binkley
Original Article


Positive psychology and the new discourse on happiness that it brings represents an influential development in the field of psychology which has, in the short duration of its existence, grown into a powerful presence in the therapeutic culture of our time. This article examines this phenomenon from the standpoint of the theory of neoliberal governmentality, uncovering subtle and implicit logics of government centered on the production of a distinctly neoliberal subjectivity. Two principal points are advanced in this discussion: first, the relevance of governmentality theory to the study of positive psychology is argued on the basis of the need to theoretically explore the productivity of this discourse in shaping new subjectivities. Second, happiness itself, as an empirical case for governmentality theory, is argued to possess value for the rethinking of certain theoretical biases within the governmentality approach, which tend to emphasize rationality at the expense of emotions. These points are presented through theoretical arguments and the analysis of positive psychology texts.


positive psychology neoliberalism happiness Foucault self-help subjectivation 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sam Binkley
    • 1
  1. 1.Emerson CollegeBostonUSA

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