Madness and Mindfulness: How the “Personal” Is “Political”

  • Hugh Willmott
Part of the Mindfulness in Behavioral Health book series (MIBH)


The chapter examines the institutionalization of unreason and the potential role of meditation in disclosing its roots. It is argued that meditative awareness can enable critical reflection on, and transformation of, practices that diminish our rational awareness. Mindfulness may contribute to this awareness, but its lack of an ethical frame renders it vulnerable to narcissistic appropriation and corporate commercialization. Accordingly, mindfulness is limited in disclosure, and counteracting, of the needless perpetuation of suffering associated with ego-building and defensive emotions, as manifest in contemporary expressions of sectarianism and fanaticism. The examination of antidotes to unreason and freedom is accomplished through a series of critical reflections upon the insights generated by Wright Mills’ The Sociological Imagination, Carol Hanisch’s “The Personal is Political,” and Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. These texts provide complementary commentaries on the development of progressive, emancipatory consciousness and praxis to which, I conjecture, meditation, as distinct from the mindfulness movement, contributes.


Mindfulness Meditation Hanisch Sectarianism Praxis The Other The Sociological Imagination Pedagogy of the Oppressed 


  1. Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. C. (1992). Critical management studies. London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Baer, R. (2015). Ethics, values, virtues, and character strengths in mindfulness-based interventions: A psychological science perspective. Mindfulness, 6, 956–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dyrberg, T. B. (2014). Foucault on the politics of Parrhesia. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Freire, P. (1970/2005). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum.Google Scholar
  5. Galbraith, J. K. (1958). The affluent society. New York, NY: Houghlin Mifflin.Google Scholar
  6. Good, D. J., Lyddy, C. J., Glomb, T. M., Bono, J. E., Brown, K. W., Duffy, M. K., … Lazar, S. W. (2016). Contemplating mindfulness at work: An integrative review. Journal of Management, 42, 114–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Goto-Jones, C. (2013). Zombie apocalypse as mindfulness manifesto (after Žižek). Postmodern Culture, 24(3).
  8. Grant, A. (2015). Can we end this meditation madness. The New York Times, A21. Accessed 18 July 2017
  9. Hanisch, C. (1970/2006). The personal is political. Available at Accessed 18 July 2017
  10. Lama, D. (2011). Taking responsibility for the world’s well-being. In B. Boyce (Ed.), The mindfulness revolution (pp. 248–251). Boston, MA: Shambhala.Google Scholar
  11. Merriam Webster (2017). Meditate. Available at:
  12. Mills, C. W. (1959). The sociological imagination. London, UK: Penguin.Google Scholar
  13. Orwell, G. (1946). Politics and the English language. Accessed 18 July 2017
  14. Oxford English Dictionary. (2017). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Purser, R. (2011). A Buddhist-Lacanian perspective on lack. The Humanistic Psychologist, 39(4), 289–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Purser. R., & Forbes, D. (2017). How to be mindful of mindfulness. Accessed 17 July 2017
  17. Rakaow, K. (2013). Therapeutic culture and religion in America. Religion Compass, 7(11), 485–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Renault, E. (2010). A critical theory of suffering. Critical Horizons, 11(2), 221–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Seppälä, E. (2015). How meditation benefits CEOs. Harvard Business Review. Accessed 17 July 2017.
  20. Sinclair, A. (2015). Possibilities, purpose and pitfalls: Insights from introducing mindfulness to leaders. Journal of Spirituality, Leadership and Management, 8(1), 3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Trungpa, C. (1973). Cutting through spiritual materialism. Boston, MA: Shambhala.Google Scholar
  22. Willmott, H. C. (2013). Changing institutions: Critical management studies as a social movement. In V. Malin, J. Murphy, & M. Siltaoja (Eds.), Dialogues in critical management studies, Getting things done (Vol. 2, pp. 123–164). Bingley, Yorkshire: Emerald.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugh Willmott
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Cass Business SchoolCity University of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Cardiff Business SchoolCardiffUK

Personalised recommendations