The government and ethics of health promotion: The importance of Michel Foucault

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    A debate about the ethics of health promotion recently appeared in this journal. While the papers involved provided a number of new insights into this area, they appeared to stop short of many possibilities. In particular, the dismissal of the relevance of the work of Foucault in this area prevented another line of inquiry opening up. This paper provides a fuller explication of Foucault's relevance to ethics and health promotion. It draws attention to the way health promotion produces subjects, especially choosing subjects. Using nutrition promotion as an example, it highlights the way that various positions in health promotion - which on the surface appear to be at odds with each other - can in fact be seen to be part of the same project: that of producing self-regulating subjects. The paper concludes by stressing that health promotion provides an ethics, in a Foucauldian sense, by producing the means by which subjects assess their own desires, attitudes and conducts in relation to those set out by health promotion expertise.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)459-468
    Number of pages10
    JournalHealth Education Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 1998


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