Workshop: Nudges: new normativity within the public sphere?

September 1-3, 2015, Manchester. 

Deadline for abstracts: 15th May

Nudges are attracting a lot of attention around the world, not only among academics, but also among politicians. They could be considered as an instance of the emergence of new forms of normativity. This new normativity is characterized by its extralegal and non-coercive nature, and its influence on individual behaviour. The concept of
‘nudge’, which consists of shaping individual decisions without coercion, best exemplifies these new normativities. However, the concept cannot encompass the wide variety of non-legal forms of social regulation, which both predates Sunstein & Thaler’s conceptualisation of nudges and will outlive it. This workshop invites inter-disciplinary contributions that address problems in the following areas:

Firstly, it considers the genealogy of nudges. They are either described as a new phenomenon, or linked to Mill’s discussion of liberalism in On Liberty. But it could be interesting to highlight the concept of ‘indirect legislation’ coined by Jeremy Bentham in the 1780s. Nudges and indirect legislation both reflect on how to best influence the behaviour of individuals in society, and how to draw up public policies.

Secondly, contributions offering a close examination of the concepts used to describe new regulatory non-legal mechanisms are welcomed. The use of concepts such as ‘libertarian paternalism’, ‘architecture of choice’, and ‘incentives’ in the scientific literature need to be addressed. These concepts are also challenged by other views reflected in the use of concepts such as soft paternalism and coercive paternalism, which offer a different approach to incentives. This allows the panel to consider how nudges redefine our main theories on shaping public policies, on the design of economic market structures and on the management of (private and public) organisations. In turn, the panel raises issues relating to the legitimacy of this extralegal means of social control.

Thirdly, the panel intends to look into today’s application of nudges. The concrete implementation of nudges and choice architectures in specific public policy fields (health, environment, education, economic regulation) need to be examined. The issue whether nudges exemplify the rise of a new conception of the State needs to be tackled.

This workshop seeks to provide an overview of recent research in these areas. Abstracts of 400-500 words should be submitted by 15th May to Malik Bozzo-Rey:


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