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Foucault and Hayek on public health and the road to serfdom

Author: Mark Pennington

Published in Public Choice (2021)


This paper draws on the work of Michel Foucault and Friedrich Hayek to understand threats to personal and enterprise freedom, arising from public health governance. Whereas public choice theory examines the incentives these institutions provide to agents, the analysis here understands those incentives as framed by discursive social constructions that affect the identity, power, and positionality of different actors. It shows how overlapping discourses of scientific rationalism may generate a ‘road to serfdom’ narrowing freedom of action and expression across an expanding terrain. As such, the paper contributes to the growing literature emphasising the importance of narratives, stories and metaphors as shaping political economic action in ways feeding through to outcomes and institutions.


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