do good


Do good for thyself (and the market).

“Avocados” are as green as they are good for us and a perfect symbol of our current middle class and its lifestyle. Its nutrients protect us from cancer, high blood pressure and heart diseases. Its positive fats keep us fit and in shape, enabling us to post pictures of our “Bikini Bridges” in the best possible fashion on Facebook, Tumbler & Co. Meanwhile, we are shopping for the latest dresses from the “Conscious Collection” by H&M with a crystal clear conscience. “Do good for thyself and for the nature” – this is the ethical plea of a feel-good economy which tries to help us to chasten ourselves with providing disciplining products. “Joyful Excesses” are heavily frowned upon nowadays and socially undesirable actions are punished with disgusting pictures and various sanctions exerted by politics, economy and society, all in all creating a form of “democratic panoptismus” which is called “Flexible Normalism” by Jürgen Link. “Guilt-free Consumption” promises “Healthy Happiness”, individuality norms itself in “Jeggings”, and “Karma Consumption” and “Lessness” are the buzzwords of a holier-than-thou zeitgeist that tries to make us constantly optimise ourselves and our lifestyles. Prevention culture meets positivity society, whereas “Quantify yourself”, becomes a new secular religion and protestant and puritan behaviours more and more prevail. Self-control and the “Perfection of the Self” are serving our collective safety feelings. These forms of “Technologies of the Self” and of “Total Design” domesticate the society with massive commodification efforts which clandestinely lessen the diversity by “Variety Control”.

The editors, Judith Mair and Bitten Stetter, of “Moral Phobia”, being published this November, analyse the prevailing everyday culture in their zeitgeist dictionary which focuses on the phenomena—such as “Wanderlust”, “XXL Prohibition2, “Yes We Can” and “Zen Bootcamps”—themselves. They were supported in this ambitious task by eminent guest authors such as Sybille Berg, Klaus Frieler, Francis Müller, David Singer and Mareike Teigeler. In more than 400 entries they demonstrate vividly and comprehensively how the subtly imperatives to constantly optimise body, soul and mind pervade our daily life. These imperatives create inner and outer force fields which result and express themselves in the commodification of the Self. The inner pressure is driven by the need to protect the purity of one’s own authenticity and morality against contamination from the in- and outside, which corresponds to the outer pressure generated by bio-political rules and regulations pushing us to sustain our physical and mental health in order to unburden governments and insurance budgets. The superposition of internal and external control mechanisms reveals itself, amongst others, in the fact that the militant ways of establishing rules and prohibitions, such as the smoking ban, do not result in a rebellion against these restrictions of voluntary lifestyle choices, but, instead, lead to scientifically justified lifestyles of health and sustainability (“LoHaS”). Conspicuous physical and mental health and chasteness attest the ability and the will to take responsibility for oneself and the society. In this sense, external regulations are mostly designed for those weak (underclass) souls, who are not able, or not willing, to take their responsibility. But contaminations of personal and social purity can not only be found in the external world, in smokers, obese people or welfare recipients, but also in one’s inner self. First signs of failure could be a fatty, tasty breakfast or a missed-out yoga lesson. It is our own duty to make ourselves fit for fitting into a flexible work market which defines its success simultaneously by individual feelings of authenticity and the marketing of these feelings back to the individuals.

The collocation of a multitude of everyday life phenomena in “Moral Phobia” reveals the subtle mechanisms of neo-liberalism by reflecting the complex connections of modern, economically-charged forms of power in the internal links and structure of the dictionary itself. In this way, the editors avoid to embark on moral exegesis or preaching, but instead focus on tracing the many ramifications of these phenomena, hinting also at possibilities how extra-economical, ethical values and not least one’s own Self could be used as resources against an all-embracing competitive world.

Autoren: Dr. Phil. Maraike Teigeler, Prof. Bitten Stetter