The panel 'Was Plato Right? Should the Experts Rule?' will be part of the ECPR Joint Sessions 2016 to be held in Pisa on 24-28 April 2016.
Cathrine Holst, ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo
Bo Rothstein, Quality of Government Institute, University of Gothenburg
Democracy is haunted by significant performance problems. At the same time democratic political rule is challenged in many countries as well as in transnational polities such as the EU by an accelerating expertification of political processes and policy-making. These real world developments are paralleled by the recent “epistemic turn” in political theory, where familiar normative justifications of democracy, stressing the inherent value of political equality and democratic inclusion, are challenged by accounts focusing on decision quality and good outcomes, and the arguably indispensable role of expertise in the setting up of “truth-tracking” political procedures. This raises questions of whether expert rule, “rule of the knowers” or “epistocracy”, to borrow political philosopher David Estlund’s term, would be able to outperform democracy as we know it, producing policies that stand a better chance of being “good” or “true” and improving on human well-being. Thus the question Plato raised – why not a rule by the most knowledgeable instead of a rule by the many – is again a central issue in political theory and empirical research. The purpose of this workshop is to take up the challenge from epistocracy in its recent shapes, and bring together research on democracy’s performance and the relationship between democracy, quality of government and standard measures of human well-being, with research on the role of expertise in policy-making, expertise institutionalization and expert performance, and normative political theory contributions on the challenge from epistocracy and the legitimate role of expertise and expert arrangements in modern societies.
A total of 19 papers will be presented and discussed over three full days. From ARENA, convener Cathrine Holst will present her work on the accountability of experts. Moreover, Silje H. Tørnblad and Guri Rosén will present 'How does knowledge travel in EU policy-making processes?' using the case of TTIP as an example, and guest researcher Eva Krick is to discuss her paper 'Reconciling epistemic and democratic legitimacy: a plea for the hand-picked selection of participants in policy formulation'.
Workshop programme Was Plato Right? Should the Experts Rule?