Towards a Model of the User as Self-Employed Entrepreneur of his Mental Health?

Regular Section “Public Health Issues”
By Camille Veit

This article offers an epistemological reading of the impact of neoliberalism on mental health. More specifically, it focuses on the “user.” The “madman” of yore has made progress both theoretically and practically in the realm of psychiatry, culminating in acquiring a “user” status with relation to mental health systems that have been in place as of the mid-20th century. These developments cannot be read independently of the growth of critical discourses relating to the modes of governing the individual. The criticism leveled at the asylum models, for example by the English school of anti-psychiatry, focuses on individual empowerment and the rejection of subjection. Against this backdrop a new category emerges – that of a user, self-sufficient and capable of managing his needs, the counterpart of the entrepreneur in the neoliberal glossary. This article seeks to shed a new light on this discursivity, following in the footsteps of Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan. Within this framework, mental health is understood as an upshot of entrepreneurship, shaped by the complementarity of the unhindered flow of knowledge that characterizes free market economy. The effects of the unsustainable nature of this proposition, in which the dimension of the unknown seems excluded, manifest themselves in the realm of the subject and in the landscape of caregiving. The excluded unknown reappears, for example, in patients who are allegedly “resistant to treatment” and whose subjectivity is marked by resistance.


  • mental health user
  • discourse theory
  • capitalist discourse
  • neoliberalism
  • anti-psychiatry
Go to the article on