Frank Furedi

Professor of Sociology at University of Kent, and author of Politics of Fear, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone?, Therapy Culture, Paranoid Parenting and Culture of Fear.

Hollow words: 'Holistic'
Meaning disappears into a holistic hole.

The constant repetition of the word 'holistic' is a widely practised rhetorical strategy for tilting at windmills. Who can be against the crusade for wholeness and balance?

There is no better way for claiming moral authority than to be identified with practices that are holistic. Thankfully the holistic market provides wonderful opportunities for the enterprising moral entrepreneur. When not selling holistic medicine or holistic counselling, they are promoting holistic awareness, holistic design, holistic massage, holistic food or holistic science.

Your pussy-cat can enjoy the benefits of "holistic pet-care" while you come to terms with your inner-self through holistic therapy. Consultants advertise their "holistic view of risk". Some of them boast about their holistic management techniques.

Holistic governance, government and policies have entered the vocabulary of the earnest politician. Political parties are committed to the promotion of holistic policies. Margaret Beckett recently spoke about waste management and promised to pursue "holistic policy for waste within the EU".

And of course no one need be left short without their weekend supply of A-grade holistics. Holistic Sex is available through the "adult gifts" purchased from Holistic Wisdom Inc. This organisation offers "holistic and spiritual health for the mind, body and spirit". This is not just sex - this is holistic sex! You can learn about "spiritual masturbation" - a technique that allows you to "connect with your spiritual self through masturbating". I suspect that this is a technique that advocates of the holistic business are rather good at.

First published on The First Post, 16 March 2006