Sustainable Development, Evaluation and Policy-Making
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Sustainable Development, Evaluation and Policy-Making

Theory, Practise and Quality Assurance

Edited by Anneke von Raggamby and Frieder Rubik

This pathbreaking book contributes to the discourse of evidence-based policy-making. It does so by combining the two issues of policy evaluation and sustainable development linking both to the policy-cycle.
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Chapter 7: Politics of (Non-)Knowledge: Problems of Evaluation, Validity and Legitimacy

Stefan Böschen


___________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION: POLITICISATION OF NONKNOWLEDGE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES Non-knowledge turned out to be a relevant topos not only in the sociology of science but also in the political discourse about risk policies. Against the dominant framing of the analysis of side-effects as risks, over the last two decades the remarkable shift of attention to scientific ignorance or nonknowledge opened a new chapter in risk analysis and politics, particularly to what J. Ravetz has termed ‘science-based ignorance’ (Ravetz 1990, p. 217), that is, an absence of relevant knowledge generated by science itself. This debate, which points at the heterogenity of scientific knowledge producers or scientific facts and the inherent limitations of a quite technocratic risk assessment, draw attention to some difficult questions of knowlege politics (see Stehr 2006). These questions are difficult with respect to their specific epistemological problems adressed with them and also the inherent consequences for the design of institutions to solve the conflicts about nonknowledge aligning them. This debate emerged in connection with the remembrance of ‘late lessons from early warnings’ (EEA 2001), cases which demonstrated the potential hazards of innovations after a considerable period of time. These stories show that although science and technology intervene in the (natural and social) world, we are frequently unable to anticipate their consequences, as it has been the case with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), asbestos, thalidomide, and BSE (see EEA 2001). Against this background, since the 1980s one can observe the emergence of what has been termed the ‘politicisation’ of ignorance or non-knowledge (Stocking...

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