The rise of "behavioral man"
Source Patrick Bond
Date 21/03/25/13:07

The rise of “behavioral man”: Randomized controlled trials and the “new” development agenda

Howard Stein1, Samantha Cunningham1, and Pádraig Carmody
Human Geography


Despite their ostensible differences, both randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and neoclassical economics, which undergirds
neoliberalism, are characterized by unrealistic assumptions. This is not accidental but stems from a common desire for scientism,
despite a substitution of “economic man” by what we call “behavioral man” in the former. However, the interactions
between human behavior and context produce much greater diversity than allowed for in such approaches. As a result of
these failings, RCTs do not challenge neoliberalism, but rather can be inserted into and help legitimize it. Consequently they
do not alter the structural conditions producing poverty, but represent a form of “virtualism” that attempts to make the real
conform to the ideal of neoclassical economics through “nudging.” This is often associated with conditionality, representing
a continuation of the historically Northern-centered coloniality of power, which sometimes leads to ethical breaches and
perverse development outcomes. Some examples from RCTs conducted or published by the World Bank—which has become
a lead agency in promoting RCTs to assess the effectiveness of aid—in Africa are presented to illustrate our

[View the list]

InternetBoard v1.0
Copyright (c) 1998, Joongpil Cho