Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Gane, Nicholas. “Nudge Economics as Libertarian Paternalism.” Theory, Culture & Society, (April 2021).
Open access

Given the growing prominence of nudge economics both within and beyond the academy, it is a timely moment to reassess the philosophical and political arguments that sit at its core, and in particular what Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein call libertarian paternalism. The first half of this paper provides a detailed account of the main features of this form of paternalism, before moving, in the second half, to a critical evaluation of the nudge agenda that questions, among other things, the gendered basis of paternalistic governance; the idea of ‘nudging for good’; and the political values that underpin nudge. The final section of this paper builds on the existing work of John McMahon by asking whether libertarian paternalism should be understood as a new, hybrid form of neoliberalism, or, rather, as a post-neoliberal form of governance that has emerged out of, and flourished in, the post-crisis situation.

Keywords behavioural economics, libertarian paternalism, neoliberalism, nudge, Sunstein, Thaler

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