Handbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy
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Handbook of Behavioural Change and Public Policy

Edited by Holger Straßheim and Silke Beck

Behavioural change has become a core issue of public policy. Behavioural instruments such as ‘nudging’ apply insights from behavioural economics and behavioural sciences, psychology and neurosciences across a broad range of policy areas. Behavioural insights teams and networks facilitate the global spread of behavioural public policies. Despite an ever-growing amount of literature, research has remained fragmented. This comprehensive Handbook unites interdisciplinary scholarship, with contributions critically assessing the state and direction of behavioural public policies, their normative implications and political consequences.
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Chapter 24: Behaviour change: extralegal, apolitical, scientistic?

Robert Lepenies and Magdalena Małecka


Behavioural policy solutions pose challenges for politics, the law and science. These very broad charges will be sustained through a series of sketched arguments that criticize the intellectual foundation, political implementation, and democratic compatibility of the behaviour change agenda. These arguments take the form of what we call an institutionalist perspective on behaviour change, which attempts to defend the societal value of the areas under investigation. First, behavioural change instruments undermine the normative function of the law. Second, behaviour change, as a technocratic project, removes normativity from the political sphere by circumventing public deliberation. Third, behaviour change, as a movement that aims to bring science to policy, relies on a simplistic view of science which might jeopardize both: science and policy. We propose remedies for each of the difficulties and tensions we diagnose.

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