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.
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.