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Nudging’ Healthy Lifestyles: The UK Experiments with the Behavioural Alternative to Regulation and the Market

Burgess, Adam (2012) Nudging’ Healthy Lifestyles: The UK Experiments with the Behavioural Alternative to Regulation and the Market. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 1 . pp. 3-16. ISSN 1867-299X. (doi:10.1017/s1867299x00001756) (KAR id:36201)


This article critically reflects upon the introduction of behavioural, ‘nudging’ approaches into UK policy making, the latest in a series of regulatory innovations. Initiatives have focused particularly upon correcting lifestyle risk behaviours, marking a significant continuity with previous ‘nannying’ policy. On the other hand, nudging represents a departure, even inversion of previous approaches that involved the overstating of risk, being based partly upon establishing a norm that bad behaviours are less, rather than more common than supposed. Despite substantive similarities, its attraction lies in the reaction against the former approach but must also be understood in the context of the economic crisis and a diminished sense of liberty and autonomy that makes intimate managerial intervention seem unproblematic. Problems are, in fact, substantial, as nudging is caught between the utility of unconscious disguised direction and the need to allow some transparency, thereby choice. Further, it assumes clear, fixed ‘better outcomes’ but encourages no development of capacity to manage problems, contradicting a wider policy intent to build a more responsible and active citizenry. More practically, nudging faces considerable barriers to becoming a successfully implemented programme, in the context of severe, Conservativeled austerity with which it is now associated.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/s1867299x00001756
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Depositing User: Mita Mondal
Date Deposited: 12 Nov 2013 12:07 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2023 11:33 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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