Libertarian paternalism and the governance of irrationality

Start date: 
Wed, 19/10/2011
Closing date: 
Wed, 19/10/2011
Room 9206, Cantor Building, City Campus
Event contact: 
Dr Tony Gore and Ryan Powell

Rhys Jones - Aberystwyth University

A libertarian paternalist way of framing UK public policies, informed by insights from the psychological and behavioural sciences, has become apparent in recent years. In this paper, I use Foucauldian conceptions of governmentality and psychological techniques of governance - as well as interview and documentary research on contemporary public policy - in order to examine how such policies re-imagine and address the limitations of neoliberalism, as well as the rationality of citizens. 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 citizen. I conclude by suggesting that libertarian paternalism may well be creating an alternative neoliberal rationality of government in the UK.

Rhys Jones is a professor of political geography at Aberystwyth University and has published widely on themes relating to the geographies of the state and nationalism. He is currently coming to the end of a three-year project that has examined the emergence of behaviour change or libertarian paternalist policies in the UK.

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