The implications of ‘therapeutic entrepreneurialism’ for evidence and expertise in the education politics of wellbeing

Kathryn Ecclestone

Abstract

Enthusiastic policy rhetoric and academic activity around ‘wellbeing’ obscure the ways in which particular meanings gain traction in a particular political and socio-cultural context. Focusing on three educational policy texts, this paper explores the ways in which the policy trajectory from text to practice is dominated by a narrow interpretation of wellbeing-as-mental health/character that generates ‘therapeutic entrepreneurialism’. I argue that these developments produce, and are fuelled by, dubious claims makers, evidence and expertise and generate a powerful, self-referential consensus for a psycho-emotional, skills-based approach that marginalises richer philosophical, sociological and historical understandings of wellbeing. I conclude with some thoughts on what educationally-meaningful approaches to developing wellbeing might comprise.