segunda-feira, 23 de agosto de 2010

They know what we're thinking?


Speakers: Matt Grist; Brendan O'Neill; Professor Gerry Stoker; Richard Wilson.
Chair: Claire Fox.

Gordon Browns bid for re-election has included the launch of a new politics, embracing: an Alternative Vote system; new e-petitions to allow the public to suggest topics for MPs to debate and devolving control of public services to local people. This is part of a package aimed at restoring public trust in Westminster. Indeed all mainstream parties support initiatives to connect with our concerns and win our votes. While flattering us as active political subjects, though, they increasingly view us as more like objects: cross-party enthusiasm for behavioural science means our brains and psychology are studied with anthropological zeal. George Osborne enthuses about new scientific disciplines that allow politicians to to develop a new approach to policymaking, based on empirical evidence about how people really behave. But should the public be flattered by such close scrutiny of our behaviour? Is there a danger of viewing the public as lab rats in need of nudging to entice us to make the right choices, incentivised to engage more pro-socially and vote for the right parties? Isnt this view of the public patronising or manipulative? Or is such scepticism old-fashioned? Do we need to refresh our views of how to engage the majority in decision-making beyond ideological choices? How can we best restore the electorate to their rightful place as subjects and masters of their democratically elected representatives? Whither the demos?