Three Models of Democratic Expertise

Three Models of Democratic Expertise

By Alfred Moore, University of Cambridge

How can expertise best be integrated within democratic systems? And how can such systems best enable lay judgment of expert claims? These questions are obscured by the common framing of democratic politics against an imagined system of pure and unmixed expert rule or “epistocracy.” Drawing on emerging research that attempts to think critically and institutionally about expertise, I distinguish three ways of democratically organizing relations between experts and non-experts: representative expertise, in which experts are taken to exercise limited and delegated power under the supervision of political representatives; participatory expertise, in which expertise is integrated with publics by means of directly participatory processes; and associative expertise, in which civil society groups, advocacy organizations, and social movements organize expert knowledge around the objectives of a self-organized association. Comparing these models according to the cognitive demands they make on lay citizens, the epistemic value of citizen contributions, and the ways in which they enable public scrutiny and contestation, I go on to explore how they can support and undermine one another, and how they can open up new questions about democracy, trust, and expertise in political science and political theory.


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