Psychological governance and behaviour change

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Rhys Jones Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK

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Jessica Pykett School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK

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Mark Whitehead Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK

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A suite of ‘behaviour change’ policies has become evident in United Kingdom public policies, informed by insights from the psychological and behavioural sciences. In this article we use Foucauldian conceptions of governmentality and psychological techniques of governance – along with interview and documentary research on contemporary public policy – to examine how such policies re-imagine and address the limitations of neoliberalism, as well as the rationality of subjects. In seeking to address individuals’ irrationality, such policies reframe contemporary forms of neoliberal governance by potentially: re-centring power within the state apparatus; undermining the significance of rational choice; and creating a new breed of passive subject.

Rhys Jones Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK

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Jessica Pykett School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK

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Mark Whitehead Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK

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Advancing knowledge in public and social policy