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Habit and the Politics of Social Change: A comparison of nudge theory and pragmatist philosophy

Pedwell, Carolyn (2017) Habit and the Politics of Social Change: A comparison of nudge theory and pragmatist philosophy. Body and Society, 23 (4). pp. 59-94. ISSN 1357-034X. E-ISSN 1460-3632. (doi:10.1177/1357034X17734619)

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Rethinking the political workings of habit and habituation, this paper suggests, is vital to understanding the logics and possibilities of social change today. Any endeavour to explore habit’s affirmative potential, however, must confront its legacies as a colonialist, imperialist and capitalist technology. As a means to explore what it is that differentiates contemporary neoliberal modes of governing through habit from more critical approaches, this article compares contemporary ‘nudge’ theory and policy, as espoused by the behavioural economist Richard Thaler and the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, with the pragmatist philosophies of habit offered by John Dewey, William James and Shannon Sullivan. While nudge advocates focus on how policymakers and corporate leaders can intervene in the ‘choice architectures’ that surround us to outsmart or bypass problematic human tendencies, I argue, pragmatist philosophers appreciate the necessity of collective efforts to develop new and flexible forms of habituation in order to engender more enduring and democratic forms of social transformation.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/1357034X17734619
Uncontrolled keywords: Habit; John Dewey; neoliberalism; nudge theory and policy; social change; speculative pragmatism
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Social Policy Sociology and Social Research > Sociology
Depositing User: Carolyn Pedwell
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2017 13:58 UTC
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 10:18 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Pedwell, Carolyn:
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