Health Promotion, Governmentality and the Challenges of Theorizing Pleasure and Desire (2016)

Karlsen, M.P., Villadsen, K.

Health Promotion, Governmentality and the Challenges of Theorizing Pleasure and Desire
(2016) Body and Society, 22 (3), pp. 3-30.

DOI: 10.1177/1357034X15616465
The relationship between pleasure and asceticism has been at the core of debates on western subjectivity at least since Nietzsche. Addressing this theme, this article explores the emergence of ‘non-authoritarian’ health campaigns, which do not propagate abstention from harmful substances but intend to foster a ‘well-balanced subject’ straddling pleasure and asceticism. The article seeks to develop the Foucauldian analytical framework by foregrounding a strategy of subjectivation that integrates desire, pleasure and enjoyment into health promotion. The point of departure is the overwhelming emphasis in the governmentality literature on ‘prudence’, ‘self-responsibility’ or ‘risk calculation’, such that pleasure and desire remain largely absent from the framework. Some insights from Žižek’s work are introduced to help us obtain a firmer grasp on the problematic of ‘the well-balanced subject’. The article argues that, in order to analyse the transformation of interpellation in recent health promotion, we must recognize the mechanism of self-distance or dis-identification as an integral part of the procedure of subjectification. © 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.