Positive Psychology and the Construction of the Neoliberal Subject: A Critical Approach Towards “Happinness” and “Resilience” Discourses

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Francisco Antar MARTINEZ GUZMAN, Universidad de Colima, Mexico
As has been widely documented, the discipline of psychology and the so called "psy sciences" have played a key role in producing the psychological individual of modernity. The knowledge produced from these disciplines and the academic discourses they put into circulation do not merely describe psychological phenomena but also contribute to the management of social conduct in specific cultural contexts. In recent years, we have witnessed the proliferation of particular types of psychological discourses related to the so-called "positive psychology". This branch of psychology aims to reformulate the understanding of psychological well-being in terms of personal enterprise. This paper discusses how these academic discourses take a turn with respect to the traditional modern conception of the psychological subject and increasingly direct behavior in various social areas such as public policy, organizational culture, mental health and self-help literature. In the context of these discourses, "happiness" and "resilience" are identified as key concepts for shaping new subjectivities that are in tune with the current neo-liberal socioeconomic system. Finally, the paper concludes by discussing how academic discourses related to "positive psychology" are consistent with a neo-liberal rationality for governing subjetivity, by promoting specific psychological models and forms of relationship of individuals with themselves.