Nudging conformity and benefit sanctions: a state experiment in behaviour modification

The Nudge Policy – In case anyone feels alone in their deeply unjust treatment by the DWP and other institutions. Rejection letters, lost housing benefit applications, PIP-related letters a couple of days before Christmas, these are part and parcel of a deliberate, nasty ideology to target the vulnerable and not-quite-yet vulnerable but struggling. Many thanks to Sue Jones for her courageous, intelligent, investigative journalism and research. I am filled with gratitude towards brave people like her.

Politics and Insights


“Behavioural theory is a powerful tool for the government communicator, but you don’t need to be an experienced social scientist to apply it successfully to your work.”
Alex Aiken
Executive Director of
Government Communications

Normalising state punishment 

Conservative anti-welfare discourse excludes the structural context of unemployment and poverty from public conversation by transforming these social problems into individual pathologies of “welfare dependency” and “worklessness.” The consequence is an escalating illogic of authoritarian policy measures which have at their core the intensification of punitive conditionality. These state interventions are justified by the construction and mediation of stigma, which is directed at already marginalised social groups that the policies target. The groups, which include sick and disabled people, people who are unemployed, are painted with a Malthusian brush, as a  “burden on the state” and a drain on what are politically portrayed and publicly seen as scarce resources in an era…

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