Handbook of Critical Policy Studies
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Handbook of Critical Policy Studies

Edited by Frank Fischer, Douglas Torgerson, Anna Durnová and Michael Orsini

Critical policy studies, as illustrated in this Handbook, challenges the conventional approaches public policy inquiry. But it offers important innovations as well, in particular its focus on discursive politics, policy argumentation and deliberation, and interpretive modes of analysis.
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Chapter 17: Politics and policy expertise: towards a political epistemology

Holger Strassheim


Confronted with complex dynamics such as global warming or food insecurities, decision-makers need to rely on the educated advice of specialists. At the same time, however, citizens question the role of expertise in society more than ever. Both tendencies can be observed: the expertization of democracy and the democratization of expertise. This chapter aims at critically exploring the relationships among science, policy and society. In taking up the problems and paradoxes of policy expertise, key questions are addressed: How is policy expertise generated, communicated and justified? How do cultural contexts shape and constrain the politics of policy expertise? How can we explain changes? To answer these questions the view of ‘political epistemology’ is adopted: Expertise is conceptualized as a nexus of authority attributions embedded in discursive and institutional cultures. It is also argued that in the post-national constellation these arrangements increasingly come under pressure. This opens up opportunities for a critical re-examination of public knowledge production.

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