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Performing Democracy: Experts, Citizens and The Public Trust

Addressing the problem of the 'democratic deficit' between experts and the public in contemporary democracies

What new kinds of political and economic decision-making are required?

In today’s technologically advanced nations, it is almost unthinkable for governments to perform their functions without the aid of experts. Scientific and technical knowledge are essential prerequisites for rational priority-setting, informed policy choice, and efficient use of public resources. At the same time, increasing reliance on expertise has removed the work of government further from the possibility of direct citizen access and control. That distancing, in turn, has become a source of widespread public alienation and distrust, leading many to speak of a “democratic deficit” at the heart of Western societies. But what is to be done? The answer lies, I argue, in reconceptualizing the foundations of trust. Trust between rulers and the ruled is not a commodity that one can gain or lose, like money in the bank. Paradoxically, trust is a relationship generated through the very processes that allow democratic publics to express skepticism and voice distrust. To maintain trust between experts and publics requires us to think of democracy as a performance whose scripts call for constant and critical reflection and oversight.


Professor Sheila Jasanoff | talks | www


Date and Time:

27 March 2007 at 6:00 pm


2 hours



The Old Cinema
309 Regent St

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Organised by:

Centre for the Study of Democracy
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Available from:

To attend please, email Suzy Robson s.robson@wmin.ac.uk

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