In a new article over at The New Republic, senior editor Evgeny Morozov questions the agendas of tech companies that advocate “unplugging” and technological solutions like apps in response to the digital onslaught that has become a fact of daily life. “We are being urged to unplug,” writes Morozov in “The Mindfulness Racket,” “so that we can resume our usual activities with even more vigor upon returning to the land of distraction.”
A similar ethos—what French sociologists Eve Chiapello and Luc Boltanski term “the new spirit of capitalism,” which gets a brief mention in the article—guides workplace implementations of mindfulness meditation. Their purveyors—who tend to be from the business, not Buddhist, world—treat meditation techniques as productivity devices, placing them in the service of capital. “What’s good for us as individuals,” Arianna Huffington is quoted in the article, “is also good for corporate America’s bottom line.”
We can be sure that if it weren’t, we wouldn’t have a corporate media outlet promoting mindfulness meditation so vigorously. Nor would we see such unbridled enthusiasm (not a friend of scientific inquiry, as was recently noted in The Guardian) for research that is still very rudimentary, as many involved will oftentimes readily admit (something to look forward to in the next issue of Tricycle).
What makes these “new spirit” programs so seductive, and to baby boomers especially, is that they recuperate the “artistic critique” of capitalism—the romantic and libertarian undercurrents of ’68—that values radical individualism, the primacy of individual well-being, and horizontal network structures over heirarchical control.
If you believe that corporate interests and human interests are one and the same, this is a moot point, but clearly not everyone is buying it.
I encourage you to check out Morozov’s article here.
–Alex Caring-Lobel, Associate Editor