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Mindfulness as Political Object and Democratic Opportunity
While the Mindfulness phenomenon tends not to be thought of as ‘political’, I present it as exemplifying the politics of individualised social practices. Those who do read Mindfulness politically can be quite polarised: between critics who dismiss it as the embodiment of neoliberal self-help ideology, and advocates who invest it with inherently progressive possibilities. I argue it is perhaps more productive to think of Mindfulness in relation to its broader democratic potential – as a rich resource for cultivating the open-ended democratic subjectivities and spaces within which such ideological contestation – politics – plays out. In this respect, the civic educational potential of Mindfulness is significant.
Will Leggett is Professor of Political Sociology and Head of the Department of Social Policy, Sociology & Criminology (SPSC) at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of Politics and Social Theory: The Inescapably Social, the Irreducibly Political (Palgrave), and his current research focuses on the politics of individualised governance and participation. This began with work on behavioural economics and ‘nudging’, and has been followed by analysis of the politics of Mindfulness meditation and similar practices, published Open Access as ‘Can Mindfulness really change the world? The political character of meditative practices’, in Critical Policy Studies.