Accepted paper:

Policy-maker 2.0: Creating New Behavioural States

Authors:

Rhys Jones

Paper short abstract:

States across the world are beginning to use behavioural insights - not as a way of governing populations - but as a way of addressing the perceived irrationalities and biases of policy-makers themselves. This paper examines empirical examples and conceptual implications of this development.

Paper long abstract:

There has been a proliferation of academic work in recent years, which has examined the predictably irrational ways in which individuals make decisions and the implications of this for the development and delivery of public policy. To this end, 'nudging' has entered the political lexicon of the majority of states. A new trend, however, has emerged over the past two to three years. States and other organisations are beginning to use behavioural insights - not as a way of governing whole populations - but as a way of addressing the perceived irrationalities and biases of policy-makers themselves. Drawing on research conducted as part of a Leverhulme Fellowship, the paper examines empirical examples of this phenomenon in Wales, Scotland and the US. It also highlights the significant conceptual implications of this development for anthropological understandings of the state. Specifically, it discusses how such developments: 1) question the figure of the rational, objective, unbiased and emotionally-balanced policy-maker, which has long held sway in academic writings on the state and within state organisations themselves; 2) speak of an attempt to support the creation of a new kind of policy-maker (policy-maker 2.0) who is aware of their own cognitive and emotional limitations, and who is beginning to be armed with new skills and capacities required to support innovative, effective and democratic governance; 3) lead to ethical concerns linked to an inherent responsibilisation of individuals and an allied downplaying of the structural conditions that limit state actors' freedom to act.

panel B02
Geographies and anthropologies of the state: places, persons and nonhumans