How ‘Treat Yourself’ Became a Capitalist Command (2015)

Foucault News

Ester Bloom, How ‘Treat Yourself’ Became a Capitalist Command.The Atlantic 19 Nov 2015

Corporations love telling Americans they “deserve” fancy electronics and indulgent food.

In a 1982 lecture that went on to be published as an essay called “Technologies of the Self,” the French philosopher Michel Foucault argues that looking after oneself, rather than being a form of navel-gazing or narcissism, is a kind of “vigilance” that dates back to antiquity. For Socrates, Plato, and their ilk, Foucault writes, “taking care of yourself eventually became absorbed into knowing yourself.”* As the thinking went, only with the proper amount of time set aside for the “active leisure” of reading, studying, and ruminating could a person come to grips with the profound nature of the universe and his own mortality.

After bubbling up through academic communities in the ‘80s, the term “self-care” accumulated health-related connotations as it gained mainstream renown. In…

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