A Social Constructionist Critique of Positive Psychology

Viv Burr, Penny Dick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The recent Positive Psychology movement aims to generate research and theory that enables people to achieve happiness and well-being. This chapter offers a critique of Positive Psychology from a Social Constructionist perspective, problematizing some of its underlying, taken-for-granted assumptions. It locates these within a broader neo-liberal project whereby individuals are seen as agents, responsible and accountable for their own well-being. Through the examples of psychometrics and worker well-being, the chapter argues that Positive Psychology forms part of the modern ‘project of the self’, illustrating the influence of disciplinary power as conceptualized by Foucault. The chapter concludes that Positive Psychology ignores the web of power relations and structural inequalities within which people live their lives and which not only define for people what counts as happiness and well-being, but also place limitations on their capacity to achieve these.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge International Handbook of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationCritiques, Problems, and Alternatives to Psychological Ideas
EditorsBrent D. Slife, Stephen C. Yanchar, Frank C. Richardson
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781003036517
ISBN (Print)9780367465650
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge International Handbooks


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