@ EIPE 2008 – Police Brain

panopticon1Day three is also the last day. The temperature dropped outside, hail fell yesterday, but since it’s still above zero, the ice melted overnight and under the warm shoes of the morning travelers. The conference mood has also turned south, tamer, more sleepy, less angry.

The paper that caught my attention today was Joel Anderson‘s discussion on the political theory of Sunstein and Thaler’s Nudge Parternalism. The hook was to think of policy implications as architecture. Sinapses snapped and to my mind came the image of the Panopticon and M. Foucault’s argument on how human sciences of the 19th century were projects of disciplinary intervention. Anderson does not offer a model building of the Sunstein and Thaler’s paternalism, instead he turns scaffolding (of the individual!? brain architecture?), and plumbing (of collective action?!), further and further away from Foucault’s exemplar.

The Foucault story is so good because it illustrates this surprising outcome that social science’s interventions into the human, the individual, the soul, the brain, are/can be physical interventions. The Bentham’s designed the corridors of prisons. Sunstein and Thaler will talk about the contents of supermarket aisles and shelves. It is the mind-body distinction and the social-physical paradox suddenly subverted.

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One thought on “@ EIPE 2008 – Police Brain

  1. One crucial difference, however, is that Foucault’s panopticon is a metaphor of cotrolling people, Sunstein and Thaler’s nudge is a metaphor for helping people to achieve their own'”true preferences” (their language).

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