The Politics Of Expertise (2013)

Here are excerpts from this book by Stephen Turner:

* The client trusts the lawyer to exert himself on behalf of the client. However, the client not being a lawyer, is not in a position to effectively judge whether the lawyer is properly representing the client or giving the client adequate legal counsel and advice. This is why trust is required in this relationship. Not only is the client suffering from a deficiency in information or inability to make judgments, but the lawyer is a person with
interests as well which the lawyer can advance, potentially, by cheating the client. Another case of an agency relationship is the relationship between a client and a stockbroker. The stockbroker benefits, as the lawyer might, by doing commission work for the client. The stockbroker also advises the client on what work needs to be done. Similarly the lawyer advises a client not only about what legal steps to take but benefits from the client’s decision to take those legal steps that are necessarily costly to the client and beneficial to the lawyer who is paid for carrying out those steps.

* Even lawyers, when they hire other lawyers, want the shark to be an entirely altruistic shark who puts their interests before the shark’s own interests in every respect. And we know that there are some mechanisms for
punishing a lawyer who violates the rules, and that indeed the bar association disbars people, uses its dues to support actions involving the punishment of lawyers, and so forth.

At first glance this seems to have little to do with science. Sharks in science are not sharks on behalf of the interests of a client. But science is also about ambition, score keeping, playing by particular rules of the game, and being a shark in debunking false claims.

* …when an academic program awards a degree or a journal accepts an article, the program or journal assumes a risk that its assurances of adequacy will be found out to be false, and the consequence of error is damage to “reputation,” which translates into a loss of the value of future assurances of the same type. This feature is central—and for this reason, and for convenience, I will retain the term “bonding.”

* …scientists whose achievements are recognized in various ways “accumulate advantage” so that a scientist who has gone to the right schools, published in the right journals, and won the right prizes is more likely to have his achievements cited… at each point of accumulation something has actively been done, at a cost, to create value through reducing risks, specifically by distributing risks to people other than the scientist accumulating the advantages. So the total value of the “product” in question, the science, is not only the ideas, the intrinsic value, but the guarantees that come along with it, in the form of risk bearing actions taken by editors, hiring departments, and prize givers, each of whom has put the value of their journal, department, or prize at risk by their actions. The accumulation of advantage is thus like the accumulation of cosigners to a loan…An established scientist will have passed through many tests, of which the CV is the archaeological record.

* With every advance in centralization the man who uses his hands is brought under subjection by the man who wields the sword or pen. The secretariat begins as the servant and ends as the master, as every executive officer in our dominions laments. It is inevitable. In a loose aggregate of small parts where every family must fend for itself, it is the man whose muscles are hard, w hose hands are deft, and whose judgment sound that is valued most. . . . But when . . . social activities have to be coordinated from a center then it is necessary to pick out the
pure brains, the men who specialize in thinking. For a thinker is really a man who spends his time making other people think as he does, and consequently act as he thinks. (Hocart [1936] 1970: 126)

* Much of literature on the European Community, however, has emphasized the peculiarities of the community as a political form, and concerned itself with the question of how to make the European Community more like traditional models—more federal, or more “democratic.” What I would like to argue instead is that the European Community is a political form that represents an extension of forms of rule that are found in embryonic form elsewhere in the western political tradition that are not “democratic,” and that the emergence of these forms into a practical governing regime tells us more about what is wrong and also historically dead about liberal democracy than the ideal of liberal democracy, used as a standard of evaluation, tells us about the European Community. I will suggest that the vestments of parliamentary democracy are simply misleading about the nature of this regime, and perhaps irrelevant as a standard.

* Hocart commends Tocqueville’s account, in L’ancien Regime Book II, of “the way in which the clerks have gradually bored their way from the center through the whole feudal structure leaving only the shell.” …as regimes change, “those who cannot adapt themselves to change, fade into ceremonial attendants . . . [while] effective power passes into the hands of the clerks.”

* [The EU] is not, as it has sometimes appeared, merely a kind of peculiar executive department of a quasi-state with a quasi-parliament, but rather represents a distinct form of rule with the capacity to supplant liberal democracy… What I will argue, part of the point of the European Community, and perhaps its main point, is to provide an alternative political structure that is capable of dealing with issues that European national liberal democracies have been incapable of dealing with. …specialists and experts, come to replace the political form that existed before centralization and to absorb to themselves functions and features of the national state, or of other less centralized political forms.

* I will argue that the EC is intelligible as its own form of rule, unlike democracy but taking over the functions of democracy. It is a system with a non-democratic, or rather non-majoritarian, ideal of consensual agreement
as the basis of action. It has a political class, which is integrated vertically from the European Union (EU) down to regional bureaucrats, and organized into categories corresponding to highly differentiated bodies of bureaucratic and technical expertise, which take over not only executive functions but also the functions of discussion.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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