- Governing by carrot and stick: A genealogy of the incentive
- Award date
- 8 May 2014
- Number of pages
- Document type
- PhD thesis
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA)
Managers, politicians and scientists frequently use the term ‘incentive’ in their explanations of human action. At the same time, individuals in the public and private sectors are now governed with the help of incentives. In this thesis, I study the incentive from a theoretical and normative perspective inspired by the work of the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. More in particular, I study three successive attempts to demarcate the ‘incentivizable subject’ as an object of knowledge and to design the techniques of power with which that subject could be governed.
American engineers were the first professional authority in matters of incentives. For them, the incentivization of employees was synonymous with the introduction of a variant of piece wages. From the 1920s onward, the authority of the engineers was challenged by management scientists with a background in psychology, sociology and anthropology. They developed different explanations for employee behavior and developed a set of alternative techniques to increase productivity. It took until the 1970s for the third rationalization of governing with the help of incentives to emerge. This time, mathematically trained economists forged a link between incentives and information.
Finally, I analyze the delimitation of the role granted to the governor and the governed; the contrast between incentives and discipline as rival techniques of power; and the things that are taken for granted in the use of the carrot and the stick as twin elements in a comprehensive program for wielding power over people.
- Research conducted at: Universiteit van Amsterdam
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