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Mindfulness and the ‘psychological imagination’

Daniel Nehring Orcid Logo, Ashley Frawley Orcid Logo

Sociology of Health and Illness, Volume: 42, Issue: 5, Pages: 1184 - 1201

Swansea University Authors: Daniel Nehring Orcid Logo, Ashley Frawley Orcid Logo

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Abstract

We analyse the rise of ‘mindfulness’ in English language media discourses and contextualise it in terms of its expression of a persistent underlying ‘psychological imagination’ in contemporary thinking about social problems. An inversion of C. Wright Mills’ much-cited sociological imagination, the p...

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Published in: Sociology of Health and Illness
ISSN: 0141-9889 1467-9566
Published: Wiley 2020
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa62427
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Abstract: We analyse the rise of ‘mindfulness’ in English language media discourses and contextualise it in terms of its expression of a persistent underlying ‘psychological imagination’ in contemporary thinking about social problems. An inversion of C. Wright Mills’ much-cited sociological imagination, the psychological imagination draws on medical-scientific authority to treat social problems as private concerns rooted in individual biology, mentality and behaviour. We analyse the roles which academic claims-making, commercial interests and mass mediatisation have played in the rise of mindfulness from the late 1970s onwards. We first map the translation of mindfulness from Buddhist philosophy into Western psychotherapy and popular psychology before considering its emergence and expression in the public sphere of news media claims-making. We argue that where the sociological imagination ‘promised’ above all the treatment of private troubles as public issues and insights into the ‘human variety’ produced by myriad ways of living, the psychological imagination promises the isolation of public issues as private concerns rooted in individual biology, mentality and behaviour. The psychological imagination permeates the expression of mindfulness as a solution to social ills and symbolises the comparative decline of assumptions implicit in Mills’ 20th century rousing call to social scientists.
Keywords: mindfulness; sociological imagination; social problems; news media; social construction
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Issue: 5
Start Page: 1184
End Page: 1201