Based at the Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change and funded by the Philomathia Foundation, this project examines the ethics of behavioural insights as a technology of government and instrument of public policy. In spite of behavioural insights’ popularity, there is as of now little anthropological research into its ethical impact on the subtle webs of responsibility, accountability, prerogatives and guarantees linking governments, policies and citizens.

This project will seek to address these issues, asking as well: what kinds of ethical discourses do behavioural economic consultants deploy? What kinds of projects do they get involved in or not? What disciplines, regimes of knowledge and kinds of expertise do they claim or draw on, and what kinds of socio-technical devices do these involve (algorithms, rhetoric, big data, econometric regressions…)? How do they incorporate, reconcile or supersede canonical understandings of transparency, objectivity, impartiality, and other ethical categories peopling contemporary understandings of “good governance”?

Social Science Research for the 21st Century - Progress through Partnership