Abstract: This paper discusses theoretical, methodological and political problems in the field of health promotion research. It argues that these problems result from a partial and contradictory appropriation of the discourse of new social movements. Politically, the health promotion movement is largely confined within the state, rather than the expression of a social movement against the state. The direction of health promotion research and policy is, therefore, caught in the bureaucratic logic of "trapped administrators", and results in contradictory emphases on problems like the development of "health promotion indicators", which show little result in informing a broader but coherent conceptualization of health, let alone in effecting change in health policy and outcomes. Such political problems reflect parallel confusions about theory and methodology.