„Well-being, well-behaving“ Globalizing behavioural expertise and politics

Date: 30 March, 12.30-13.45
Venue: Ravelijn, RA 1315
Speakers: Dr. Holger Straßheim (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - holger.strassheim@hu-berlin.de)


Over the past decade, we can observe the global spread of behavioural change approaches in public policy. Behavioural teams and ‘nudging’ networks such as the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK or the “iNudgeyou” network in Denmark have been established in order to facilitate the application and dissemination of findings from behavioural economics, behavioural science, neurosciences and psychology across different areas of public policy. Behavioural instruments have been applied to diverse policy areas such as consumer protection, food safety, climate change, employment, health, pensions, charitable giving or crime prevention. So far, only few studies focus on the inter- and transnational spread of behavioural governance. Covering diverse policy areas, the paper presents first assumptions about the global rise and the regulatory influence of behavioural expertise. It is being argued that behavioural experts are able to combine both political as well as epistemic authority. Behavioural expertise gains regulatory power by (1) spreading and institutionalizing networks of behavioural expertise, (2) by combining experimental evidence and political practicability in randomized control trials and (3) by mobilizing a discourse on ‘libertarian paternalism’. Earlier indicators of progress in terms of growth or welfare are at least partly replaced by measurements of ‘happiness’. This discourse realigns the temporal horizons of policy making by providing an explanation for failures in the past and by reimagining the relationship between citizens and the state for the future.

CV: Dr. Holger Straßheim