This paper provides a comparative account of two conceptualisations of pleasure. The first draws on Foucault’s analysis of bio-power. The second provides a phenomenological account where pleasure is viewed as an aspect of our immediate consciousness. These conceptualisations are illuminated through an analysis of employees’ accounts of learning at work. Overall, the paper demonstrates how, in a Foucauldian analysis, pleasure disappears as it becomes a cipher for power whereas within the phenomenological account pleasure is foregrounded but power disappears. The concluding section focuses on the problems of both conceptualisations and explores whether we should simply accept that different analytical frameworks do different work for us or whether we should be more concerned at the losses, and gains, associated with theoretical choices. The conclusion further asks whether a concern to foreground pleasure in accounts of learning represents an antidote to the pessimism of much critical analysis or whether we should treat pleasure as a morally duplicitous category that encourages political apathy.
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