Edited by Nicolina Montesano Montessori, Michael Farrelly and Jane Mulderrig
Chapter 3: Analysing orders of discourse of neoliberal rule: health nudges and the rise of psychological governance
Liberal governments are increasingly turning to behavioural science for ways of shaping human conduct. Popularly known as ‘nudge’, this applies behavioural economic theory to public policy. It uses a range of semiotic and material interventions to penetrate individual psychologies and secure voluntary behaviour change. This chapter explores its use in an anti-obesity social marketing campaign targeting children. It proposes a transdisciplinary text analytical framework, bringing Lemke’s (2012) theory of neoliberal governmentality into dialogue with critical discourse analysis in order to investigate how nudges work in practice, and to critically assess their role as a technique of neoliberal governmentality. The findings reveal, in the face of ‘wicked’ social problems like health and wellbeing, the increasing importance of the child as an instrument of self-disciplinary power in the creation of more resilient, risk-prepared neoliberal subjectivities.
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