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Between Enlightenment and Disaster

Dimensions of the political Use of Knowledge

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Edited By Linda Sangolt

Modern politics is highly science-dependent and knowledge-driven. What is the rightful role of expert knowledge in political life? How can the truth claims of science be reconciled with principles of democratic control and lay participatory rights in decision-making?
This collection of essays by political scientists, sociologists and economists from Germany, France and Norway provides different empirical and theoretical analyses of the complex organising and legitimising power of knowledge in political governance. The authors shed light on key dimensions and dilemmas that have shaped the world-changing interrelations between politics, social institutions and scientific knowledge in the past century.
The contributions cover issue-areas and policy-fields such as population control, health economics, ICTs and higher education reform, and the politics of productivity and economic pre-eminence.

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INTRODUCTION. The Elusive Quest for Epistemic Certainty 13

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INTRODUCTION The Elusive Quest for Epistemic Certainty Linda SANGOLT Unless either philosophers become kings in their coun- tries or those who are now called kings and rulers come to be sufficiently inspired with a genuine desire for wis- dom; unless, that is to say, political power and philosophy meet together, while the many natures who now go their several ways in the one or the other direction are forcibly debarred from doing so, there can be no rest from trou- bles, my dear Glaucon, for states, nor yet as I believe, for all mankind. Plato, The Republic, book 5, 473. World-transforming Science and Science-dependent Politics Exploring the relationship between knowledge and political power has been a central, and arguably, the pivotal core of political philosophy since its beginnings. Modernity is perhaps best defined as the concerted quest for controlling epistemic and existential uncertainty and managing social change by means of formal (scientific) knowledge. Wars, eco- nomic crises and abject failures of political planning and governance have not shattered confidence in the ability of science to serve human aspirations. Across the spectrum of ideologies and regimes, and not- withstanding charges of misuse of scientific expertise, also from within the ranks of science itself, contemporary politics subsists an faith in the world-changing power and potential of scientific knowledge. Politics is increasingly defined as knowledge-management, casting into stark relief that strident professions of faith in science's world-transforming impact and potential are often not matched by political will and capacity to apply knowledge for...

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