Social Theory & Health

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 138–159 | Cite as

The birth of mindpolitics: understanding nudging in public health policy

  • Rik PeetersEmail author
  • Marc Schuilenburg
Original Article


This article addresses the question: ‘In what ways have nudging and other behavioural techniques entered the realm of policymaking for public health and what does that mean for the way contemporary society is governed?’ In our genealogy of Dutch public health policy, we have identified four periods: ‘rational persuasion/individual responsibility’ (‘70s), ‘welfarist emancipation’ (‘80s), ‘neo-liberal regulation’ (‘90s), and ‘management of choice’ (now). We show how a different type of technique, which we call ‘mindpolitics’, has slowly complemented the biopolitics of public hygiene and health care. We argue that to think in terms of biopolitics today means to think of its relation to a world in which public health is managed through architecture of choice and the way individuals are nudged into making better decisions.


biopolitics nudging Foucault public health choice architecture 



This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.División de Administración PúblicaCentro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)Ciudad De MéxicoMexico
  2. 2.Department of Criminal Law and CriminologyVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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