Eva Krick and Cathrine Holst: Governance by Hybrid Advisory Committees – A Hallmark of Social Democracy?
Chapter in a special edition of Comparative Social Research, titled Social Democracy in the 21st Century, 2021
This study focuses on ad hoc policy advisory committees that bring together experts and stakeholders to propose public policies on the basis of consensus. These kinds of committees are often considered to be a typical governance mechanism of the social democratic model of regulation and policy-making known from the Nordic countries. We challenge this view by comparing the Norwegian system of committee governance with those of Germany and the European Union and point out the central role of coordination and consensus in all three systems. Relying on existing and original research, and contrary to the assumption of a distinct Nordic regime, we find significant similarities between the three committee governance systems when it comes to organisational features, the kind of expertise produced and the committees' governance functions. Most remarkable is the prevalence of hybrid, tripartite committees that draw together interest groups, civil servants and researchers in all three systems. We show that these kinds of ad hoc advisory committees tend to generate a kind of coordinated, negotiated expertise where notions of validity and objectivity are connected not only to cognitive quality but also to the breadth of viewpoints that are integrated. Moreover, the Nordic committee system of Norway stands out with only few distinctive qualities, and it is not obvious how the notion of ‘social democracy’ helps illuminating these features. To help shed light on the striking resemblances we find across systems, we develop a notion of consensus-oriented political and epistemological systems, which may be a useful complement to the notion of Nordic social democracy.
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