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Why Wellness Sells: Natural Health in a Pharmaceutical Culture

posted on 2023-11-29, 18:27 authored by Colleen DerkatchColleen Derkatch

How and why the idea of wellness holds such rhetorical—and harmful—power.

In Why Wellness Sells, Colleen Derkatch examines why the concept of wellness holds such rhetorical power in contemporary culture. Public interest in wellness is driven by two opposing philosophies of health that cycle into and amplify each other: restoration, where people use natural health products to restore themselves to prior states of wellness; and enhancement, where people strive for maximum wellness by optimizing their body's systems and functions.

Why Wellness Sells tracks the tension between these two ideas of wellness across a variety of sources, including interviews, popular and social media, advertising, and online activism. Derkatch examines how wellness manifests across multiple domains, where being "well" means different things, ranging from a state of pre-illness to an empowered act of good consumer-citizenship, from physical or moral purification to sustenance and care, and from harm reduction to optimization. Along the way, Derkatch demonstrates that the idea of wellness may promise access to the good life, but it serves primarily as a strategy for coping with a devastating and overwhelming present.

Drawing on scholarship in the rhetoric of health and medicine, the health and medical humanities, and related fields, Derkatch offers a nuanced account of how language, belief, behavior, experience, and persuasion collide to produce and promote wellness, one of the most compelling—and harmful—concepts that govern contemporary Western life. She explains that wellness has become so pervasive in the United States and Canada because it is an ever-moving, and thus unachievable, goal. The concept of wellness entrenches an individualist model of health as a personal responsibility, when collectivist approaches would more readily serve the health and well-being of whole populations.




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