Citizens and Experts: Democratizing Policy Deliberation

Frank Fischer

in Reframing Public Policy

Published in print June 2003 | ISBN: 9780199242641
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599255 | DOI:
 Citizens and Experts: Democratizing Policy Deliberation

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Taking up the tension between democracy and science, the discussion in this chapter seeks to reformulate the relationship through the social constructionist perspective, emphasizing science as a socio-political activity; rather than taking scientific practices to be the ideal for politics, the question asked is to what degree scientific practices might be democratized. Towards this end (and after first examining the challenge posed by democracy), the discussion outlines the contributions of citizen participation to both policy-making and collaborative inquiry; by transforming citizens’ ways of knowing and acting, participatory deliberation can build new political cultures capable of preserving and extending decision-making capabilities. Against this background the more challenging question of the citizen’s ability to engage collaboratively in the scientific inquiry process is considered. The discussion then turns to numerous participatory experiments that more specifically illustrate the possibilities and practices of citizen inquiry, in particular outlining the consensus conference developed by the Danish Board of Technology (which has emerged as the most elaborate form of citizens’ panel) and the methodology of participatory policy analysis. Citizen participation is not advanced as a cure-all for economic and social problems, nor is deliberation or argumentation meant to direct attention away from questions of interest and power, but it does hold out the possibility of bringing forth new knowledge and ideas capable of creating and legitimizing new interests, reshaping understanding of existing interests, and, in the process, influencing the political pathways along which power and interest travel.

Keywords: citizen participation; consensus conference; Danish consensus conference; democracy; democratization; participatory deliberation; participatory policy analysis; policy deliberation; policy-making; science; social constructionism

Chapter.  8046 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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