Will Davies, Ph.D., is a sociologist and political economist and a Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London and also Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Centre.
Dr. Davies is author of two books, The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition (Sage, 2014) andThe Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Wellbeing (Verso, 2015).
In this interview, we explore wide-ranging questions as to why corporations have suddenly become interested in measuring and quantifying the well-being and happiness of their employees. Will Davies explains the phenomena of psychological collapse, and how neoliberalism has given rise to the psychosomatic worker. Likewise, we probe the links between the neoliberal ideology driving the quest for employee well-being and social harmony, manifesting recently in corporate mindfulness programs. From Frederick Taylor to Elton Mayo to Hans Seyle, Will Davies articulates the common philosophical thread of utilitarianism underlying these various schemes, which all have relied on messianic messages and charismatic authority characteristic of management gurus. We explore the explosion of surveillance technologies, wearable monitoring gadgets, and data analytics–which are increasingly employed in the service of “well-being optimization.” Finally, we discuss the purpose and value social critique in a world fraught with economic inequalities, social suffering and concentration of global elite power.