CFP: Expertise and Democratic Accountability in Courts and Public Administration

Call for papers for the workshop 'Expertise and Democratic Accountability in Courts and Public Administration' in May 2016. The deadline for abstract submission is 1 March.

The Colosseum in Rome (photo:

Date: 30-31 May 2016

Venue: The Norwegian Institute in Rome

Keynote speakers

  • David Dyzenhaus, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Toronto
  • Heather Douglas, Professor of Philosophy and Waterloo Chair in Science and Society, University of Waterloo

Workshop themes

The question of how experts can be held democratically accountable is central to debates about the powers of public administration, modern bureaucracies' extensive use of expert advice, and also to debates about the delegation of power to expert organs with wide authorities. Central themes in these debates include the limits of "technocracy", "expert rule" or "epistocracy", and the legitimate roles of experts in democracies. For the most part, the state has been the scope of these discussions, but there has been an increasing focus on expert based international organizations, such as the EU, the OECD and the UN system, where knowledge and expertise are central sources of legitimacy, and there is limited democratic control and participation from below. Parallel to discussions about public administration we find ongoing discussions about the relationship between the power of courts, juridification and the increasing significance of judicial expertise for governance and democratic legitimacy. Discussions about judicial expertise also have parallels in the supernational domain, e.g. in discussions about states’ interaction with international courts and tribunals. In the supranational domain there is most often a lack of division of powers, and a lack of an efficient legislator. This typically yields a more active role for international courts in the judicial development than what we find domestically, while internationally we also find that there is more distance between international courts and their affected publics.

The debates about expert rule in public administration, on the one hand, and the debates about juridification and the power of courts, on the other hand, take somewhat different routes. This is to be expected given the differences in normative and institutional roles which the executive and the adjudicative powers have. However, in this workshop we wish to bring these two types of discussions together, aiming at comparisons and cross-fertilization. To find the right balance between expert based advice and decisions, on the one hand, and democracy on the other, is not just a matter of developing procedures which hold experts externally accountable. It is also a matter of developing deliberative ideals and practices among the experts themselves; the epistemic norms of the community, ideals of justification and internal self-regulation. Furthermore, it is a matter of the experts' ability and willingness to communicate across publics, and in the last instance also to the citizens, or at least to communicate in ways which citizens can understand and see as reasonably acceptable.

Paper proposals

The workshop invites empirical contributions on expert behavior and expert deliberation in courts and/or public administration, in the light of questions about democratic legitimacy and internationalization. It is also open for normative contributions from legal scholars, philosophers and others, on deliberative ideals and discourse among experts, and on how experts can be held democratically accountable.

Special issue

The workshop will result in a special issue in an international peer-reviewed journal, and we will select participants to enable a coherent set of contributions.

Practical details

  • We invite those interested in presenting a paper to submit an abstract no longer than 300 words and a short biographical note by 1 March 2016 to Silje H. Tørnblad.
  • Full papers must be submitted by May 2016.
  • The conveners will select up to 20 papers. The selection of papers will be announced per e-mail shortly after the submission deadline.
  • Paper presenters may be asked to serve as discussants on other papers.
  • We can unfortunately not cover travel and accommodation expenses for all paper presenters, but will accept applications.
  • The working language of the workshop is English.

Workshop conveners

  • Cathrine Holst, ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo
  • Silje Aambø Langvatn, PluriCourts – Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order, University of Oslo

The workshop is hosted by The Norwegian Institute in Rome, Italy, and funded by Democracy as Idea and Practice, an interfaculty research programme, the research project Why not EPISTOcracy? Political legitimacy and ‘the fact of expertise’, and the Centre of Excellence PluriCourts – Centre for the Study of the Legitimate Roles of the Judiciary in the Global Order, all at the University of Oslo.

Published Nov. 30, 2015 3:33 PM - Last modified Aug. 19, 2020 12:48 PM