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CSEC seminar with Frank Fischer
Date: 22 November 2007 Time: 1.00-2.30 pm
'Citizens and experts in environmental struggles: situating technical knowledge in socio-cultural context'
Professor Frank Fischer, Rutgers University, USA and Visiting Fellow, Queen Mary, University of London
Institute for Advanced Studies, Meeting Room 1
This presentation explores the tensions between environmental experts and lay citizens from the perspective of socio-cultural reason. Rather that emphasizing the role of technical expertise in the assessment of risks, focus here is on the ordinary language reason of the citizen. Much of the discussion of the politics surrounding the acceptance or rejection of technologies has focused on the purported irrationality of lay citizens. Citizens are said to be unable to understand scientific findings and their implications for rational policymaking. By comparing the formal logic of technical inquiry and the practical logic of cultural reason, the discussion reverses the contention and interrogates the rationality of the scientist in judgments pertaining to public decisions. Employing the examples of nuclear power and GM foods, the explication shows the ways that ordinary citizens rationally apply their everyday cultural logic to practical situations, a perspective typically ignored or neglected by scientific risk investigation. Geared to local knowledge and cultural norms, the citizen's cultural reason is seen to be more attuned to normative realities inherent to policymaking than is the scientific understanding of the process. Demonstrating the scientific expert's need to take this situational logic into account, the lecture offers an approach for bringing together these two different modes of reasons in life-science related policy deliberations.
Frank Fischer is distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Policy and member of the Faculty Fellow of the Center for Global Change and Governance at Rutgers University (USA). He has also taught and lectured in many countries and is on the editorial board of numerous journals. In addition, he received the Harold Lasswell Award of the Policy Studies Organization, given to "outstanding scholars for contributions to the understanding of the substance and process of public policy."His books include Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise (1990), The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning (1993), co-edited with John Forester, Evaluating Public Policy (1995),Living with Nature: Environmental Politics as Cultural Discourse (1999), co-edited with Maarten Hajer, Citizens, Experts and the Environment: The Politics of Local Knowledge (Duke University Press, 2000), Reframing Public Policy: Discursive Politics and Deliberative Practices (Oxford University Press, 2003). He is currently completing a book on Deliberative Democracy and Policy Expertise (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Who can attend: Anyone
Keywords: Citizenship, Policy, Political theory, Technology
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