Libertarian paternalism: Policy and everyday translations of the rational and the affective

Wilkins, Andrew. 2013. Libertarian paternalism: Policy and everyday translations of the rational and the affective. Critical Policy Studies, 7(4), pp. 395-406. ISSN 1946-0171 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Following the financial collapse in 2008 many commentators went onto pronounce the end of neoliberalism as a credible system for managing welfare state capitalism. The narrow economic belief in individuals as rational utility maximizers (the linchpin of neoliberal governance) was proved to be uncomfortably inaccurate. In light of these claims, British governments and think tanks have published various research and pol-icy documents promoting the use of soft forms of state power to ‘nudge’ citizens into behaving responsibly and rationally. Through an analysis of key policy documents and academic texts, I examine the repertoires and formulations informing this emerging governmental rationality (‘libertarian paternalism’) and draw together these perspectives to explore their effects in terms of framing policy understandings of the rational and the emotional. I conclude the article by utilizing a discursive psychology approach with the aim to problematize existing policy (mis)understandings of emotion as automated and unreflexive.

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soft paternalism; neuroeconomics; emotion; politics; consumerism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


31 May 2013Published Online

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Date Deposited:

07 Nov 2019 14:51

Last Modified:

09 Jun 2021 12:54

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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