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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.



Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Sociology

Keywords: Citizenship, Policy, Political theory, Technology


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YD
United Kingdom

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