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Between Enlightenment and Disaster

Dimensions of the political Use of Knowledge

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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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A Politics of Knowledge-tools.The Case of Statistics 111

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A Politics of Knowledge-tools The Case of Statistics Alain DESRO S IERE S The question of the relations between democratic governance and technical expertise is often posed in terms of best procedures. How should one organise the intervention of those supposed to have expert knowledge within the framework of democratic debate? This is especial- ly pertinent to difficult decisions that implicate such knowledge and have important societal consequences. Works by Ulrich Beck, Michel Callon and Pierre Lascoumes, David Guston, Dominique Pestre, and Stephen Turner have discussed these questions and proposed possible procedures. These should be organised so as to accommodate different interests and actors in ways that favour the emergence of the best solu- tions, either in terms of efficiency, or in terms of democracy and justice. This means letting "concerned publics" intervene in the search for consensus through debates, negotiations and decision-making. However, it is precisely the nature of (arriving at) this consensus that is the prob- lem. Who are the concerned publics? Stephen Turner (2003) distin- guishes between scientific consensus and consensus among scientists. The first denotes a knowledge that is definitively acquired, inscribed in manuals and taught to students. The second bears an optimising a preliminary, collective and negotiated response, provided by a group of experts in charge of dealing with a concrete unresolved problem (global warming, prospective dangers of genetically modified organisms, passive smoking, or marketing of a drug), in light of the state of know- ledge at a given time. But this distinction only seems...

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