The Peripheralization of structural realities: a critical social theory of well-being

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Layton, Tanner Reid
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Department of Sociology
In recent years, expectations to pursue happiness have shifted to well-being—a concept that has been increasingly taken up by the field of positive psychology and mental health organizations in North America. I use critical discourse analysis to examine four mental health and well-being texts: Martin Seligman’s Flourish, a Bell Let’s Talk advertisement, and two Canadian Mental Health Association brochures. By embodying traces of the eudaimonic tradition that links well-being to particular ways of living, ways of thinking, and emotion management, these discourses psychologize and individualize emotion by producing a depoliticized, responsible, and normative subject. With their insistence on responsibility, balance, and resiliency, I argue that these discourses support neoliberalism and its inherent violence by disciplining readers to think of their emotions primarily in individualized terms. By doing so, these discourses center mental health in a way that renders ongoing structural inequities peripheral to the cultivation of personal well-being.
Well-being , Critical discourse analysis , Mental health , Neoliberalism , Positive psychology , Emotions , Dissertations, Academic , negative emotions , sociality of emotion