On the justification of expertise in democratic society

Liana A. Tukhvat­uli­na
Insti­tute of Phi­los­o­phy, Russ­ian Acad­e­my of Sci­ences

On the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of exper­tise in demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety

Abstract. The arti­cle con­sid­ers the prob­lem of the sta­tus of sci­en­tif­ic exper­tise in a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety. The author char­ac­ter­izes the ratio­nal­i­ty of exper­tise as a result of the inter­ac­tion and/or con­flict between the agent’s ratio­nal atti­tudes in sci­ence and pol­i­tics. Refer­ring to the ideas of W. Lipp-mann and P. Bour­dieu, the author char­ac­ter­izes the specifics of the sym­bol­ic pow­er of a sci­en­tif­ic expert, not­ing that sci­en­tif­ic exam­i­na­tion in a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety is designed to rep­re­sent the state of sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge. At the same time, delib­er­a­tive pro­ce­dures can con­tribute to the for­ma­tion of pub­lic con­sen­sus regard­ing the im-ple­men­ta­tion of solu­tions pro­posed by sci­en­tists. The author notes that this kind of self-lim­i­ta­tion of exper­tise could be con­sid­ered as an impor­tant con­di­tion for its depoliti­ciza­tion and preser­va­tion of the sci­en­tif­ic sta­tus itself. She claims that the described dis­tri­b­u­tion of pow­ers between experts and the pub­lic helps min­i­mize the risks of tech­nocratism and pop­ulism that are fraught with the devel­op­ment of sci­en­tif­ic exper­tise. In the sec­ond part of the arti­cle, the author con­sid­ers the prob­lem of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between dis­ci­plines that are involved in the devel­op­ment of pro­grams for polit­i­cal reform of soci­ety. The author ana­lyzes the con­cept of sci­en­tif­ic impe­ri­al­ism and con­sid­ers the argu­ments of crit­ics of dis­ci­pli­nary expan­sion. She char­ac­ter­izes the stand­points of John Dupree and Tony Law­son, and also recon­structs the ide­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tions under­ly­ing the pro­gram of mod­er­ate uni­fi­ca­tion­ism in the sci­ence by Philip Kitch­er. The author con­cludes that mod­ern epis­te­mol­o­gy is increas­ing­ly turn­ing to polit­i­cal rhetoric in order to eval­u­ate var­i­ous method­olog­i­cal trends. This fea­ture makes it pos­si­ble to assert that the devel­op­ment of exper­tise is char­ac­ter­ized not only by the expan­sion of sci­en­tif­ic ratio­nal­i­ty, but also by the “politi­ciza­tion” (and some­times “democ­ra­ti­za­tion”) of sci­ence itself.

Key­words: exper­tise, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, sci­en­tif­ic impe­ri­al­ism, expan­sion, inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty, democ­ra­cy

DOI: 10.5840/dspl2020317


This research is sup­port­ed by the Russ­ian Foun­da­tion of Basic Research, research project no. 18–011-01097 “Social The­o­ry and Pow­er – Russ­ian Pecu­liar­i­ties” (chap­ters 1–2) and research project no. 17–29-09178 “Analy­sis of Lan­guage and Inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty.” (chap­ter 3–4)


  1. Bour­dieu, P. O simvolich­eskoi vlasti [On the sym­bol­ic pow­er], in: Bour­dieu, P. Sot­si­ologiya sot­sialno­go pros­transt­va [Soci­ol­o­gy of Social Space]. Saint Peters­burg: Aleteia Publ., 2007, pp. 87–96. (In Russ­ian)
  2. Bour­dieu, P., R. Nice (trans.). Sci­ence of Sci­ence and Reflex­iv­i­ty. Chica­go: The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 2004.
  3. Collins, H. M., Evans, R. Pop­ulism and sci­ence, Epis­te­mol­o­gy & Phi­los­o­phy of Sci­ence, 2019, vol. 56, no. 4, pp. 200–218.
  4. Dupre, J. Against sci­en­tif­ic impe­ri­al­ism, PSA: Pro­ceed­ings of the Bien­ni­al Meet­ing of the Phi­los­o­phy of Sci­ence Asso­ci­a­tion, 1994, vol. 2, pp. 374–381.
  5. Dupre, J. Human Nature and the Lim­its of Sci­ence. Oxford: Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2001.
  6. Dupre, J. Sci­ence in a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety. By Philip Kitch­er, Philo­soph­i­cal Quar­ter­ly, 2013, vol. 63, no. 251, pp. 408–410.
  7. Fey­er­abend, P. Nau­ka v svo­bod­nom obshch­estve [Sci­ence in a Free Soci­ety]. Moscow: AST Publ., 2010. (In Russ­ian)
  8. Fis­ch­er, F. Cit­i­zens, Experts, and the Envi­ron­ment: The Pol­i­tics of Local Knowl­edge. Durham; Lon­don: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000. 352 pp.
  9. Fuller, S. The Gov­er­nance of Sci­ence: Ide­ol­o­gy and the Future of the Open Soci­ety. Buck­ing­ham, Philadel­phia: Open Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2000.
  10. Kitch­er, P. Uni­fi­ca­tion as a reg­u­la­tive ide­al, Per­spec­tives on Sci­ence, 1999, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 337–348.
  11. Kitch­er, P. Sci­ence in a Demo­c­ra­t­ic Soci­ety. New York: Prometheus Books, 2011.
  12. Law­son, T. What is wrong with mod­ern eco­nom­ics, and why does it stay wrong?, Jour­nal of Aus­tralian Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my, 2017, no. 80, pp. 26–42.
  13. Lipp­man, W. Obshch­estven­noe mne­nie [Pub­lic Opin­ion]. Moscow: Insti­tut fon­da “Obshch­estven­noe mne­nie” Publ., 2004. (In Russ­ian)
  14. Lowith, K. Max Weber and Karl Marx. Lon­don: Rout­ledge, 1993.
  15. Walsh, A., Bouch­er, S. Sci­en­tif­ic impe­ri­al­ism, folk moral­i­ty and the prop­er bound­aries of dis­ci­plines, in: U. Maki, A. Walsh and M.F. Pin­to (eds.). Sci­en­tif­ic Impe­ri­al­ism. Explor­ing the Bound­aries of Inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty. Lon­don; New York: Rout­ledge, 2018, pp. 13–30.

Comments are closed.