Neoliberal meditations: How mindfulness training medicalizes education and responsibilizes young people
Teaching mindfulness meditation at school has been advocated by educational researchers and practitioners in order to proactively target the well-being of young people. By conceptualizing mindfulness meditation as a technology of the self, in Foucauldian terms, this article considers the ideological implications of implementing mindfulness programs within schools. Recent work by Kristin Barker, it is argued, provides insight into how mindfulness meditation functions as a forceful vector for medicalization. It does so by broadening the scope of illness to encompass the emotional ups and downs inherent to daily life. My thesis is that mindfulness training's medicalizing effect is what transforms this otherwise health-beneficial meditative technique into a non-obvious means for reconstructing the educational subject in line with neoliberalism's ideological dictates. Learning to become mindful is one way members of the younger generation become charged with a moral responsibility to augment their own emotional well-being. The capacity for personal prevention and self-surveillance that school-based mindfulness training inculcates in the young, in turn, is central to the self-managing figure that neoliberalism prizes. When institutionalized as a form of therapeutic education, therefore, mindfulness meditation is not ideologically neutral but rather morphs into a neoliberal self-technology.