PoS seminar 15.3. with Judith Favereau

At the next Perspectives on Science seminar on Monday 15.3., Judith Favereau (Université Lyon 2) will give a presentation titled “Trapped in paternalism: randomized experiments and poverty”. The seminar takes place in Zoom from 2 to 4 pm.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.

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Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee within the J-PAL, promote the systematic use of randomized field experiments (RFEs) in order to fight poverty. Thus, RFEs tend to shape the policies that can be tested with such an experimental design. These policies are behaviorally oriented, therefore many of them are actually nudging devices. Furthermore, Duflo strengthens the J-PAL’s perspective from libertarian paternalism (e.g. nudges) to what she calls a “democratic paternalism”. My claim in this paper is that J-PAL’s RFEs in failing to access the mechanisms behind the poor behaviors, makes it difficult for J-PAL’s researchers to draw political recommendations, and as such Duflo is smoothly pushed to call for a stronger paternalism. The paper methodologically explains such a shift and highlights potential political and methodological alternatives to randomized field experiments.

Author bio:

Judith Favereau is currently an associate professor in philosophy of economics and history of economic thought at the pluridisciplinary laboratory TRIANGLE in the University Lyon 2. She is also affiliated to TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science. Her topics of interest are: development economics, experimental economics, philosophy of economics and evidence-based policy. Her research focuses on how development economics, experimental economics and evidence-based policy interact together in order to fight poverty, which implies studying the methodology of these sub-fields and their disciplinary transfers. More information about her at her website judithfavereau.wordpress.com.