Governance for Prosperity

This paper addresses the challenge of governance in pursuit of a genuine and lasting prosperity. Its starting point is to critique the notion that this prosperity is to be found through continued economic growth – even in the richest nations – and to point to a profound dilemma at the heart of the growth debate. Growth may be unsustainable, but degrowth (economic contraction) is unstable. The paper highlights the ways in which this dilemma leads to deep contradictions at the heart of modern governance. The growth-based economy locks government into a particular mode of governing (or “governmentality”) even when this conflicts with government’s own social or environmental goals. This internal conflict explains much of the visceral resistance which politicians and policy makers display towards the growth debate. Conversely, of course, freeing ourselves from the constrictions of growth-based prosperity simultaneously offers the prospect of better governance – a new governmentality for post-growth economics.

Neuroscience and public policy: Toward a new economic interventionism?

Neuroscience is used in economics to improve the description and comprehension of individual choice behavior. It can also serve as a means of evaluating decision-makers’ rationality and regulating their behaviors. This paper analyzes the normative implications of neuroeconomics, i.e. the contributions of neuroscience to welfare economics and public economics. The economic interventions advocated by neuroeconomists (e.g. Bernheim and Rangel 2004) are interpreted as neoliberal politics in Michel Foucault’s sense (1978b). Neuroimaging techniques do not allow the “brain-manipulation” of decision-makers. They can detect pathological or irrational behaviors. This assessment calls for a behavioral regulation of welfare, which has to be distinguished from Sunstein and Thaler’s libertarian paternalism (Sunstein and Thaler 2003). The intervention targets the environment rather than the individual in both cases, but the theoretical justification is not the same. As for neuroeconomists, irrational behaviors such as addictions do not come from an individual’s cognitive bias but from an interaction with a pathological environment. The normative reflections in neuroeconomics continue the theoretical history proposed by Foucault in his works on biopolitics and neoliberalism (Foucault 2004b). Our analysis can thus be regarded as a contribution to studies on governmentality. It claims that there is a specific non-reductionist relationship between knowledge and power in Foucault’s thought.

Money in the order of discourse: The symbolic function of money

Money symbolizes value, the sovereign, the people—in short, totality itself. But what is the role of this symbolization? Strictly speaking, the symbolic function of money is to quantify. Yet quantification is already riddled with philosophical problems. Therefore, this paper tries to demonstrate a Foucauldian problematization of the symbolic function of money, in terms of the power-knowledge relationship. Considering the symbolic function of money raises two kinds of issues. First, at the theoretical level, the issue of matching its (intensive) value and its (extensive) manifestation. And at the epistemological level, a problem of objectification of objectification, a self-referential problem of the truth value of value judgments (speculative bubble).