The dangers of “well-being”

In: Uncategorized

14 Feb 2009

Lee Jones, an academic at Oxford University, has written a critical account of an academic seminar on “well-being” for Culture Wars. He shows, among other things, that the well-being agenda leads to authoritarian conclusions. For example:

• “People convicted of drugs possession who do not see themselves as addicts – or who do not even use drugs themselves – are coerced into rehabilitation programmes which require that they correctly emote their therapeutic journey of facing up to their ‘denial’ and changing themselves. In addition to these serious drawbacks, there is also no evidence that ‘problem-solving courts’ are any more efficacious than standard courts.”

• “The emphasis on ‘child poverty’ as a violation of children’s rights and well-being, for instance, in which children are innocent of guilt for this poverty, but adults are not, implicitly blames parents for failing to realise their children’s rights; ‘bad’ parents are demonised and blamed for all manner of social problems, such as youth delinquency, which are thereby individualised. Increasingly, parents are viewed as ‘functions of their children’, existing only to serve their children’s well being.”

• “Schools today are full of well-meaning teachers trying to re-engage young people on the issues of the day and inspire them to action. The trouble is that the issues of the day are often deeply authoritarian. For instance, children are increasingly being terrorised by tales of environmental apocalypse and recruited to police adults’ behaviour . My six-year-old nephew recently returned home one night and, on the instructions of his teacher, hectored his mother about her smoking habit. These official agendas can be sold as saving the world (or your mum), or as having a whiff of anti-corporate radicalism, but they are official agendas nonetheless.”

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