Altering the Modes of Consumption - Nudge Policy in the Context of Hegemonic and Counter-Hegemonic Environmental Discourse
Abstract: One particular approach of behavioral economics has gained attention within environmental politics during the last decade. The idea of nudging (“gently pushing”) people in situations of decision-making towards the choice that in the long run is best for them as well as for the society and/or the environment seems to attract policy makers around the world. Many governments inside and outside the EU have made advances to research on the impacts of nudging and to implement nudges in order to improve the people’s and hence society’s well-being. In this thesis, the current application of nudging is scrutinized by taking a close look on the political nudge practices from a human ecological perspective. This entails a critical approach of the discourse of ecological modernization and instead the favoritism of a discourse that pursues more radical changes to the cultural assumptions of Western societies that are responsible for excessive consumption modes. A selection of exemplary studies and reports on the implementation of nudges that claim to promote sustainable consumption gives insights into the workings of ten particular types of nudges that are assessed against the background of the mentioned discourses as well as regarding their inherent power structures. By the means of these insights, the dominating presence of ecological modernization theory within the applied nudges is revealed. However, there can also be a certain potential within nudging to initiate consumption practices that are more consonant with the human ecological perspective identified.
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