Fitter, happier, more productive: governing working bodies through wellness

David McGillivray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last two decades wellness discourses have had a particularly powerful influence on advanced western societies. Some of the discourses have found their way into the corporate realm and these provide the primary focus of this paper. Whereas the focus upon unruly bodies remains a force of continuity with the concerns of 19th century paternalistic industrialists, in contemporary organisational wellness initiatives, working bodies are urged and supported to govern their own productive capacities, both in and outside of work. However, drawing on Foucault's ideas of governmentality and the subject, I propose in this paper that such discourses of organisational wellness cannot simply be seen as transformative and performative. Rather, these discourses encounter employee conflict, contestation and resistance which prevent the translation of macro wellness messages into concrete effects at the local, organisational level. In order to identify and give voice to the various subject positions emerging through discourses of organisational wellness a spectrum of self‐governance is developed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-138
Number of pages14
JournalCulture and Organization
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Foucault
  • governmentality
  • organizational wellness
  • workplace health
  • project of the self


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