Author:Chad Valasek (UC San Diego)
Paper short abstract:
Through historical research, I trace the racialized and able-bodied biases of behavioral economics and their resulting effect on global health policies. Resistance to these policies, indicates the significance of non-conforming bodies and the possibility of alternative practices and technologies.
Paper long abstract:
Behavioral economics and related policies tend to draw heavily upon a particular theory of human nature: that all human subjects are of two minds. This 'two minds' concept is better known as dual-process theory, which suggests that our brain is made up of two contrasting and sometimes collaborative systems of information processing and decision-making. The first system is argued to be most connected to our evolutionary past and most associated with affect and automatic processing; System 2 is considered the more recently evolved system, and is seen as a more deliberative, rule-governed, rational utility maximizer system. Over the last ten years, dual-process theory has increasingly come to be used (by psychologists and policy-makers) as a conglomerate conceptual framework for, not only understanding human behavior, but for assessing and intervening in a variety of social and health problems at the national and global scales, with the effect of perpetuating hegemonic labels and governance of "deficient" individuals (disabled, fat, children, etc.). This paper attempts to understand (1) the emergence of self-regulation failure as a psychologized and medicalized concept, requiring public health policy interventions on an international and transnational scale, and (2) the national-level consequences that BE has entailed in three case countries: the United Kingdom, the United States of America and South Africa (3) the role of non-conforming bodies (and minds) as sites of both governance and possible resistance.
What does it mean to be Human in the 21st Century?