Working to Feel Better or Feeling Better to Work? Discourses of Wellbeing in Austerity Reality TV

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Rowan Voirrey Sandle
Katy Day
Tom Muskett


austerity, mental health, reality TV


By focusing on discourses within the ‘cultural economy’ of reality TV, the following considers the wider positioning of waged labor as essential for mental health during a period of austerity.  The findings suggest that discourses of mental health and wellbeing construct figures of a ‘good’ welfare-recipient as one who achieves wellbeing through distancing themselves from the welfare state and progress toward waged work. Framed within the landscape of ‘psycho-politics’, wellbeing and unemployment are arguably entangled to legitimize current welfare policy, placing responsibility on individuals for economic and health security and dissolving concerns over austerity’s systemic impact.


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