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Policy and Knowledge: Ignoring Facts or Surrendering to Experts
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8867-0815
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government.
2011 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

There is a growing interest to evaluate policies and make use of scientific evidence in politics and policy. However, the relationship between politics and knowledge is quite complex. Sometimes politicians involve policy analysts, because they want to find out “the best solution” to a policy problem. But other times they just want to find arguments for a position already decided. This is discouraging. If we want politics to take the form of enlightened understanding it is not acceptable that relevant information is totally ignored. In that case, policy analysis and evaluations might just be a play to the gallery or an empty ritual. On the other hand we do not want politicians to be like puppets on a string for experts. Results from evaluations, scientific committees or other policy analyses, should not be uncritically accepted by politicians. If so, we risk a situation where politics moves from democratic arenas to closed offices of consultants and experts. Hence, from a normative point of view, we would like decision-makers to critically reflect on relevant information, and be able to argue why they dismiss some information and make use of other. But this is not easy, and there are still a lot unknown: there is a need for better instruments for analysis of the problem and more empirical knowledge of how and when politicians navigate between ignorance and technocracy. In this article we take some steps in that direction. First, we elaborate on three basic ideal types; Ignorance, Rational deliberation and Entrusting experts. Second, we test the hypothesis that politicians will entrust experts when there is established knowledge in the field, consensus among experts, and clear politically established criteria to follow. However, the two cases examined do not confirm expected results. In a first case where we would expect decisive influence from experts, the knowledge produced was ignored. In the second case, where we expected politicians to have excellent opportunities to control decision-making, it was instead controlled by experts. This has important implications for how we look upon the relationship between politics and expertise, and for future research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
expertise, expert, knowledge
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-219267OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-219267DiVA: diva2:698912
Paper presented in the Policy & Expertise workshop at the Nordic Political Science Association (NOPSA)conference in Vasa, Finland, August 9–12, 2011.
Kunskap och politik (Kupol)
Swedish Research Council, 2007-2096
Available from: 2014-02-25 Created: 2014-02-25 Last updated: 2014-05-20

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