Questioning Post-Political Perspectives on the Psychological State:Behavioural Public Policy in the Netherlands

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-232
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number2
Early online date21 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 01 Mar 2020
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Behavioural public policy is associated with the rising influence of psychological and behavioural sciences on systems of government. Related policies are based on the assumption of human irrationality and use a series of often unconsciously oriented policy tools to pursue varied public policy goals. This paper argues that existing critical analyses of behavioural public policy can be categorized as post-political in their orientation. Post-political theory is primarily concerned with how political consensuses, particularly around expert forms of government administration, tend to close off opportunities for political contestation and challenge. Drawing on an empirical case study of emerging forms of behavioural public policy in the Netherlands, this paper challenges some of the core assumptions of post-political critiques of behavioural governance. The case of the Netherlands is also used to challenge the often absolutist assumptions about the nature of the political, expertise, and consensus that characterize post-political forms of inquiry more generally.

In this paper, we argue that empirical analysis of the way in which BPP have been adopted in specific nation-states can challenge certain critiques of psychological governance, and key assumptions of post-political thinking. This paper thus utilizes an empirical study of BPP (as an ostensibly post-political condition par excellence) as a context within which to scrutinize the nature of the post-political, and what it is to be 'properly political'. In doing so this paper supports Gill et al's (2012: 510) call to 'establish where the post-political consensus is most and least firmly established', to pay attention to the pragmatics of politics, and to acknowledge that the post-political is an unfinished and partial project. But in distinction from Gill et al, we claim that the presence of the political in ostensibly post-political processes, is not merely about the unfinished, or partial, nature of the post-political, but part of an ongoing dialectic between the political and post-political.


  • Behavioural public policy, Netherlands, post-political