Social Theory & Health

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

The birth of mindpolitics: understanding nudging in public health policy

Original Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

biopolitics nudging Foucault public health choice architecture 

References

  1. Alder, B., Abraham, C., van Teijlingen, E. and Porter, M. (eds.) (2009) Psychology and Sociology Applied to Medicine, 3rd edn. Edinburgh: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  2. Allmark, P. and Tod, A. (2006) How should public health professionals engage with lay epidemiology? Journal of Medical Ethics 32(8): 460–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akrich, M. and Latour, B. (1992) A summary of a convenient vocabulary for the semiotics of human and nonhuman assemblies. In: W. Bijker and Law, J. (eds.) Shaping Technology, Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 259–264.Google Scholar
  4. Bemelmans-Videc, M.L., Rist, R.C. and Vedung, E. (eds.) (1998) Carrots, Sticks and Sermons: Policy Instruments and their Evaluation. Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
  5. Bonell, C., McKee, M., Fletcher, A., Wilkinson, P. and Haines, A. (2011) One nudge forward, two steps back: Why nudging might make for muddled public health and wasted resources. British Medical Journal 342: d401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boot, J.M. and Knapen, M.H.J.M. (2005) De Nederlandse Gezondheidszorg. Houten: Bohn Stafleu van Loghum.Google Scholar
  7. Burchell, G., Gordon, C. and Miller, P. (eds.) (1991) The Foucault Effect. Studies in Governmentality, with Two Lectures by and an Interview with Michel Foucault. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  8. de Swaan, A. (1988) In Care of the State: Health Care, Education and Welfare in Europe and the USA in the Modern Era. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  9. Dean, M. (1994) Critical and Effective Histories: Foucault’s Methods and Historical Sociology, London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Douglas, M. (1992/2005) Risk and Blame: Essays in Cultural Theory. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Foucault, M. (1976a) Nietzsche, genealogy, history. In: D.F. Bouchard (1977) (ed.) Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pp. 139–164.Google Scholar
  12. Foucault, M. (1976b) Histoire de la sexualité I. La volonté de savoir. Paris: Gallimard.Google Scholar
  13. Foucault, M. (1983) The subject and power. In: L.H. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow (eds.) Michel Foucault. Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. With an Afterword by Michel Foucault. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 208–226.Google Scholar
  14. Foucault, M. (1997) The Politics of Truth (S. Lotringer & L. Hochroth, eds.). New York: Semiotext(e).Google Scholar
  15. Foucault, M. (2004) Society Must Be Defended. Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-1976. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  16. Foucault, M. (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the Collège de France 1978-1979. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  17. Foucault, M. (2009) Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the Collège de France 1977-1978. New York: Picador.Google Scholar
  18. Garland, D. (2014) What is a ‘‘history of the present’’? On Foucault’s genealogies and their critical preconditions. Punishment & Society 16(4): 365–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goodwin, T. (2012) Why we should reject “nudge”. Politics 32(2): 85–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Graham, H. (1987) Women’s smoking and family health. Social Science & Medicine 25(1): 47–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Graham, H. (2009) Health inequalities, social determinants and public health policy. Policy and Politics, 37(4): 463–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Grüne-Yanoff, T. and Hansson, S.O. (eds.) (2009) Preference Change: Approaches from Philosophy. Economics and Psychology. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Hansen, P.G. and Jespersen, A.M. (2013) Nudge and the manipulation of choice: A framework for the responsible use of the nudge approach to behaviour change in public policy. European Journal of Risk Regulation 1: 3–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.Google Scholar
  25. Kallbekken, S., and Sælen, H. (2013) ‘Nudging’ hotel guests to reduce food waste as a win–win environmental measure. Economics Letters, 119(3), 325–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kallbekken, S. and Sælen, H. (2013) ‘Nudging’ hotel guests to reduce food waste as a win–win environmental measure. Economics Letters 119(3): 325–327.Google Scholar
  27. Latour, B. (1993) La clef de Berlin. Et autres leçons d’un amateur de sciences. Paris: La Découverte.Google Scholar
  28. Mackenbach, J.P. and van der Maas, P.J. (eds.) (2008) Volksgezondheid en gezondheidszorg. Maarssen: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  29. Marteau, T.M., Ogilvie, D., Roland, M., Suhrcke, M. and Kelly, M.P. (2011) Judging nudging: Can nudging improve population health? British Medical Journal 342: 263–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Miller, P. and Rose, N. (2008) Governing the Present: Administering Economic, Personal and Social Life. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  31. Peeters, R. (2013) The Preventive Gaze: How Prevention Transforms Our Understanding of the State. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Pomerleau, J. and McKee, M. (eds.) (2005) Issues in Public Health. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Rawls, J. (2003) A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (first published: 1971).Google Scholar
  34. Romein, E. and Schuilenburg, M. (2011) Are you on the fast track? The rise of surveillant assemblages in a post industrial age. Architectural Theory Review 13(3): 337–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rose, N. (2000) Government and control. British Journal of Criminology 40(2): 321–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Salamon, L.M. (ed.) (2002) The Tools of Government: A Guide to the New Governance. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Schuilenburg, M. (2015) The Securitization of Society: Crime, Risk, and Social Order. New York: New York University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schuilenburg, M. and Peeters, R. (2015) From biopolitics to mindpolitics: Nudging in safety and security management. Open! Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain, October 2nd, pp. 1–7.Google Scholar
  39. Sunstein, C. (2014) Why Nudge? The Politics of Libertarian Paternalism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Thaler, R.H. (2000) From homo economicus to homo sapiens. Journal of Economic Perspectives 14(1): 133–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Thaler, R.H. and Sunstein, C.R. (2009) Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  42. van den Heuvel, J.H.J. (2005) Beleidsinstrumentatie. Sturingsinstrumenten voor het overheidsbeleid. Utrecht: Uitgeverij Lemma.Google Scholar
  43. Verbeek, P.-P. (2006) Acting artifacts. In: P.-P. Verbeek and A. Slob (eds.) User Behavior and Technology Development: Shaping Sustainable Relations between Sonusmers and Technologies. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 53–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Waldron, J. (2014) ‘It’s all for your own good. New York Review of Books, October 9th, pp. 21–23.Google Scholar
  45. Wilkinson, R. and Marmot, M. (eds.) (2003) Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts. Copenhagen: World Health Organization.Google Scholar

Policy Documents

  1. Volksgezondheidsnota 1966 (PHM, 1966); TK 1965–1966, 8462/1.Google Scholar
  2. Regeringsverklaring 1971 (GD, 1971); TK 5, 3-8-1971.Google Scholar
  3. Volksgezondheidsbeleid bij beperkte middelen (PLM, 1983); TK 1983–1984, 18108/1-2.Google Scholar
  4. Over de ontwikkeling van gezondheidsbeleid (MDP, 1986); TK 1985–1986, 19500/1-2.Google Scholar
  5. Preventie Hart- en Vaatziekten (PCD, 1987); TK 1987–1988, 20259/1-2.Google Scholar
  6. Preventie voor de volksgezondheid (PPH, 1992); TK 1992–1993, 22894/1.Google Scholar
  7. Volksgezondheidsbeleid 19951998 (PHP, 1995); TK 1994–1995, 24126/1-2.Google Scholar
  8. Tabaksontmoedigingsbeleid (TDP, 1996); TK 1995–1996, 24743/1.Google Scholar
  9. Actieprogramma Preventiebeleid (APPP, 1997); TK 1996–1997, 22894/14.Google Scholar
  10. Opvoedingsondersteuning en Ontwikkelingsstimulering (ESDS, 1998); TK 1997–1998, 25980/1.Google Scholar
  11. Relatie Voeding en Gezondheid (NH, 1998); TK 1998–1999, 26229/1-2.Google Scholar
  12. Alcoholbeleid (AP, 2000); TK 2000–2001, 27565/1-2.Google Scholar
  13. Langer Gezond Leven: Ook een Kwestie van Gezond Gedrag (LLGH, 2003); TK 2003–2004, 22894/20.Google Scholar
  14. Convenant Overgewicht (CO, 2005); TK 2004–2005, 22894/51.Google Scholar
  15. Kiezen voor een Gezond Leven (CHL, 2006); TK 2006–2007, 22894/110.Google Scholar
  16. Gezonde Voeding (HN, 2008); TK 2007–2008, 31532/1.Google Scholar
  17. Nota Overgewicht (OM, 2009); TK 2008–2009, 31899/1.Google Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations