Who dictates the value of anything

Doing sport, eating healthy, taking care of your own mental wellbeing - these are no longer individual lifestyle decisions, it is an ideology. Says Carl Cederström, Assistant Professor of Organizational Theory at Stockholm Business School. Together with the British economist André Spicer, he has published a book on the subject.

SZ.de: Mr. Cederström, do you do sports?

Carl Cederström (laughs): After André and I had published our book, a lot of people came to us and complained: "You criticize all these things - but have you tried any of them yourself?" In my case the answer was no. André has actually run two marathons - and in the meantime he has confessed to me that he was working on the concept of mindfulness while working on our book because it was so stressful. A little betrayal of our project, if you will.

They say: wellness dictates the way we work, live, study and have sex. Wellness is an ideology.

Yes. And that has been the case for a long time - although the ideology has changed a lot. In 1935 the cover of the "Jahrbuch der Hitlerjugend" read: "Your body does not belong to you, your body belongs to your country, your body belongs to the Führer. It is your duty to be healthy." The sick were seen as a danger, an obstacle to the emerging nation. Today we have a completely different kind of ideology, even if some use the term "health fascism" for it. I would rather speak of health capitalism.

What do you mean?

Living healthier is an omnipresent maxim. We encounter her on advertising posters, hear her from politicians, but also from friends who want us to get excited about their latest diet. If we ask ourselves: why is this, why should we live healthier? - then you can quickly get to grips with economic issues. A healthy employee is an efficient employee who is absent less often and can work longer overall. This not only benefits the employer, but also the state.

In your book you describe a Swedish company that has compulsory fitness sessions.

Yes, sport is done there twice a week by order of the employer. If you repeatedly fail to take part, you must expect sanctions: you are sent to a so-called "life coach", you must expect your salary to be frozen and, as a final sanction, termination is also possible. The astonishing thing is that the employees do not see this as a nuisance, but as an opportunity - one spoke to me about a kind of "unemployment insurance". The employees have internalized that their health is part of their capital.

Are there any other profiteers?

The entire wellness industry, of course. And I would also say that all those who are already doing well benefit: Because of course a healthy diet and exercise can increase well-being and life expectancy - but you also need the appropriate wallet to take a yoga class or the To be able to afford membership in a Crossfit studio.

So there are also losers in the ideology of health?

An ideology is something that - apparently - everyone can agree on. But of course every ideology also excludes: There are people who are demonized, even punished. In some jobs today you are no longer welcome if you smoke; this is the case in several American hospitals. Urine tests are done to check that someone is really a non-smoker. And a year ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that assistance to overweight welfare recipients could be cut if they refused to exercise.