Palliative Buddhism: Exploring Corporate Mindfulness as a Crisis-Management Mechanism
Keywords:mindfulness, buddhism, neoliberalism, crisis management, appropriation
Abstract: In 2014 at the annual Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, several people interrupted a panel hosted by Google on mindfulness and technology in order to protest economic inequality and displacement in the area. After the protesters were forced to leave, the panelists instructed their audience to re-center themselves and utilize mindfulness techniques in order to move past the distraction and return to productive discussion. This moment encapsulates the interaction between the growth of corporate mindfulness and the ongoing crisis of neoliberal exploitation, in that the panelists sought to deploy mindfulness as a strategy for smoothing over the contradictions of capitalism. This paper analyzes the turn by an increasing number of people and corporations in the West to corporate mindfulness as a method for coping with uncertainty, stress, and anxiety associated with neoliberal crisis. I analyze the 2014 incident at the Wisdom 2.0 conference, as well as two guided mindfulness programs: Headspace and Buddhify. In particular, I argue that these corporate mindfulness programs are characterized by the appropriation, exoticization, and whitewashing of Asian Buddhist practices that serve as a crisis management strategy in the contemporary neoliberal era.
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