CFP: Expertise and Democratic Accountability in Courts and Public Administration

May 30-31, 2016, The Norwegian Institute in Rome

Call for papers

Keynote speakers

  • David Dyzenhaus, Professor of Law and Philosophy, University of Toronto
  • Heather Douglas, Professor of Philosophy and Waterloo Chair in Science and Society, University of Waterloo

Workshop themes

The question of how experts can be held democratically accountable is central to debates about the powers of public administration, modern bureaucracies’ extensive use of expert advice, and also to debates about the delegation of power to expert organs with wide authorities. Central themes in these debates include the limits of “technocracy”, “expert rule” or “epistocracy”, and the legitimate roles of experts in democracies. For the most part, the state has been the scope of these discussions, but there has been an increasing focus on expert based international organizations, such as the EU, the OECD and the UN system, where knowledge and expertise are central sources of legitimacy, and there is limited democratic control and participation from below. Parallel to discussions about public administration we find ongoing discussions about the relationship between the power of courts, juridification and the increasing significance of judicial expertise for governance and democratic legitimacy. Discussions about judicial expertise also have parallels in the supernational domain, e.g. in discussions about states’ interaction with international courts and tribunals. In the supranational domain there is most often a lack of division of powers, and a lack of an efficient legislator. This typically yields a more active role for international courts in the judicial development than what we find domestically, while internationally we also find that there is more distance between international courts and their affected publics.

The debates about expert rule in public administration, on the one hand, and the debates about juridification and the power of courts, on the other hand, take somewhat different routes. This is to be expected given the differences in normative and institutional roles which the executive and the adjudicative powers have. However, in this workshop we wish to bring these two types of discussions together, aiming at comparisons and cross-fertilization. To find the right balance between expert based advice and decisions, on the one hand, and democracy on the other, is not just a matter of developing procedures which hold experts externally accountable. It is also a matter of developing deliberative ideals and practices among the experts themselves; the epistemic norms of the community, ideals of justification and internal self-regulation. Furthermore, it is a matter of the experts’ ability and willingness to communicate across publics, and in the last instance also to the citizens, or at least to communicate in ways which citizens can understand and see as reasonably acceptable.

Deadline: March 1, 2016

Posted: December 03, 2015