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Jane Mulderrig

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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Jane Mulderrig, Nicolina Montesano Montessori and Michael Farrelly

This chapter makes a case for the added value of integrating Critical Discourse Analysis with Critical Policy Studies, producing a theoretical and methodological synergy we term ‘Critical Policy Discourse Analysis’ (CPDA). It lays the groundwork for the highly practical and method-focused chapters which follow. The intellectual origins and key theoretical assumptions of Critical Policy Studies and Critical Discourse Analysis are reviewed in order to reveal the conceptual underpinnings and complementarities which lead us to propose this integrated approach to policy research. The chapter examines some of the key concerns of post-positivist approaches to policy research, and demonstrates how CPDA is ideally suited to address them. It offers definitions of core concepts like text, discourse and interdiscursivity, before outlining how the remaining empirical chapters fit into this CPDA approach.

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Michael Farrelly, Nicolina Montesano Montessori and Jane Mulderrig

This chapter reflects on the three aims of the volume: first, to show, conceptually, how an integration of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) with Critical Policy Studies (CPS) could enrich the analysis of policy discourse. Second, to set out, explicitly, the methodological steps taken in operationalising such an analysis, and, third, to reflect on the distinctive contribution made to both fields when applied to actual policy problems. It argues, first, that CPDA encourages and facilitates a relational analysis of policy; second, it emphasises the constitutive role of discourse in policy analysis; third, that CPDA encourages analysis of the context of policy discourse and of the mutually constitutive relationship which holds between them; and, fourth, that the CPDA approach encourages analysis of the connection between policy and power. It concludes that CPDA not only leads to better understanding of the investigated topic, but it also leads to a synergy in which theory informs the analysis, while the analysis informs theory.