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Many of today’s public policies aimed directly or indirectly at regulating the behavior of individuals provide for the implementation of a certain type of instrument that can be classified as a label. In this paper, we propose to analyze the characteristics and dynamics underpinning this mode of governance, as part of a study of two particular public policy domains chosen for their complementarity as well as for their contrasts: the fight against obesity, and sustainable consumption. Based on a work by Foucault (2004), we emphasize the fact that the logic of competition, which regulates utilities and sanctions in a particular social field, is instrumentalized by public policy as an incentive to the actors whose value is endorsed by a label to deliberately take action. Hence, the aim and outcome of this mode of governance are not designed to bring about uniformity in a field but rather the ongoing creation of increasingly demanding labels that only some of the participants can hope to obtain.


  • competition
  • governmentality
  • imitation
  • instruments
  • labels
  • obesity
  • standard
  • sustainable consumption
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