Behavioral economics as neoliberalism: Producing and governing homo economicus. McMahon, J. Contemporary Political Theory, 14(2):137--158, April, 2015.
Behavioral economics as neoliberalism: Producing and governing homo economicus [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
The research program of behavioral economics is gaining increasing influence in academic economics and in interest from policymakers. This article analyzes behavioral economics from the dual perspective of Foucault’s genealogical investigation of neoliberal governmentality and contemporary critical theorizations of neoliberalism. I argue that behavioral economics should be understood as a political economic apparatus of neoliberal governmentality with the objective of using the state to manage and subjectivize individuals – by attempting to correct their deviations from rational, self-interested, utility-maximizing cognition and behavior – such that they more effectively and efficiently conform to market logics and processes. In this analysis, I contend that behavioral economics enacts three components of neoliberal governmentality: positioning the market as a site of truth and veridiction for the individual and the state; regulating what constitutes the objects of political economy and governmental intervention; and producing homo economicus (economic human) and diffusing this mode of economic subjectivity across the social terrain. In doing so, behavioral economics and its rationalities transform and introduce new technologies of power into neoliberal governmentality. I illustrate this argument with an analysis of recent changes to retirement savings policy in the United States, heavily influenced by behavioral economics thinking, that entrench neoliberal formations.
@article{mcmahon_behavioral_2015,
	title = {Behavioral economics as neoliberalism: {Producing} and governing homo economicus},
	volume = {14},
	issn = {1470-8914},
	shorttitle = {Behavioral economics as neoliberalism},
	url = {http://www.palgrave-journals.com/cpt/journal/v14/n2/full/cpt201414a.html},
	doi = {10.1057/cpt.2014.14},
	abstract = {The research program of behavioral economics is gaining increasing influence in academic economics and in interest from policymakers. This article analyzes behavioral economics from the dual perspective of Foucault’s genealogical investigation of neoliberal governmentality and contemporary critical theorizations of neoliberalism. I argue that behavioral economics should be understood as a political economic apparatus of neoliberal governmentality with the objective of using the state to manage and subjectivize individuals – by attempting to correct their deviations from rational, self-interested, utility-maximizing cognition and behavior – such that they more effectively and efficiently conform to market logics and processes. In this analysis, I contend that behavioral economics enacts three components of neoliberal governmentality: positioning the market as a site of truth and veridiction for the individual and the state; regulating what constitutes the objects of political economy and governmental intervention; and producing homo economicus (economic human) and diffusing this mode of economic subjectivity across the social terrain. In doing so, behavioral economics and its rationalities transform and introduce new technologies of power into neoliberal governmentality. I illustrate this argument with an analysis of recent changes to retirement savings policy in the United States, heavily influenced by behavioral economics thinking, that entrench neoliberal formations.},
	language = {en},
	number = {2},
	urldate = {2015-04-14},
	journal = {Contemporary Political Theory},
	author = {McMahon, John},
	month = apr,
	year = {2015},
	keywords = {Behavioral economics, Foucault, Governmentality, homo economicus, Neoliberalism, subjectivization},
	pages = {137--158},
	file = {Snapshot:files/51179/cpt201414a.html:text/html}
}
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