Over the last few decades, mindfulness has gone viral. These days, the practice has found its way into corporations, prisons, schools, police departments, and even the U.S. military. There are many benefits to mindfulness of course, but in the latest Upstream Conversation, “McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality,” author Ron Purser unpacks the more pernicious part of the practice by examining how capitalism has co-opted mindfulness to further capitalist exploitation and extraction.

Interestingly, it turns out that mindfulness can be very compatible with our current neoliberal ideologies of individualism, inward-focus, and the watering-down of sociality. It has been expertly applied in ways which encourage us to only look inside for solutions to our problems, instead of challenging the systems and structures that drive the suffering we experience. Purser argues that McMindfulness is a way of pacifying a population and of instilling a victim-blaming mentality.

“The message is, if you can’t change your circumstances, just practice mindfulness and change your reactions to circumstances,” Purser says. “That’s problematic because the explanatory narrative of stress [becomes a] privatized spirituality, and privatization is the driving force of neoliberalism. Stress is seen as an epidemic. It’s omnipresent, it’s inevitable. And so therefore it’s up to us to cope and to “mindful up,” so to speak.”
McMindfulness: How mindfulness became the new capitalist spirituality — by Robert Raymond