Can mindfulness really change the world? The political character of meditative practices

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Downloads (Pure)


Mindfulness – the Buddhist derived meditative practice of cultivating attention to the present moment – has become a secular global phenomenon. Analysis of Mindfulness’s political significance remains rare, despite its take-up by political actors and popular critiques of commodified, instrumentalised ‘McMindfulness’. This article argues that Mindfulness exemplifies how technologies of the self occupy a key, contested space between reproducing and challenging contemporary power relations. Critiques of McMindfulness are extended via themes of de-politicization and the construction of neoliberal subjectivity. But more cognitively focused accounts of meditation practice, and wider critical-theoretical concepts, are then used to reconstruct Mindfulness, indicating its expansive political potential. ‘Micro Mindfulness’ is shown to enhance the neglected area of individual agency within deliberative democratic theory. Further, ‘Macro Mindfulness’ resonates with the radical democratic understanding of political subjectivity and ‘democracy to come’. Most expansively, Mindfulness is a resource for developing critical consciousness and even prefiguring alternative futures.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Policy Studies
Early online date2 Jun 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • McMindfulness
  • deliberative agency
  • neoliberal subjectivity
  • prefiguration
  • radical democracy
  • technologies of the self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


Dive into the research topics of 'Can mindfulness really change the world? The political character of meditative practices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this