Policy & Politics
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The politics of behaviour change: nudge, neoliberalism and the state

Author: Will Leggett1
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  • 1 School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham, UK
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Behaviour change is increasingly central to policy and politics. The exemplar of nudge, and its relationship to behavioural economics and psychology, is outlined. Nudge’s claim to libertarian paternalism is evaluated in the context of the neoliberal state. A sociological critique of behavioural economic assumptions enables a still wider account of shifting state–citizen relations. Foucauldian analyses of such relations, as well as deliberative ‘think’ perspectives, are assessed. A more explicitly political, social-democratic model of the behaviour change state is advocated. This would be more attuned to the socioeconomic context of behaviour, and also be prepared to defend citizens against ubiquitous attempts to shape their subjectivity.

  • 1 School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham, UK

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