The Politics of Conspicuous Displays of Self-Care

There are 1.6 million images tagged with #selfcare on Instagram and a few million more on Twitter and Tumblr, most of them posted in 2016. “Self-care” is newer in the American lexicon than “self-reliance,” but both stem from the puritanical values of self-improvement and self-examination.

“Self-care” is newer in the American lexicon than “self-reliance,” but both stem from the puritanical values of self-improvement and self-examination. In 1984, Michel Foucault wrote in “The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3”_ that the notion dates back to the Greeks, noting that in the Alcibiades dialogues, Socrates advises a young man not to attempt political leadership until he has attended to himself. In Plato’s Apology,_ Foucault also noted, Socrates claims to have been sent by the gods to remind men to “concern themselves not with their riches, not with their honor, but with themselves and with their souls.” This theme was taken up by Seneca, Epictetus, and a host of early Christian thinkers, and provides the foundation of the modern religious and philosophical imperative to “cultivate the self” or “care for the soul.” More recently, the philosopher Stanley Cavell has argued that the “grand narrative of American individualism,” as it can be traced from William James to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman, echoes this ancient ethos wherein society is organized around the self-cultivating individual.

Jordan Kisner about the politics of conspicuous displays of self-care:  https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-politics-of-selfcare/amp

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