The tension between professional expertise and democratic governance has become increasingly significant in Western politics. Environmental politics in particular is a hotbed for citizens who actively challenge the imposition of expert theories that igre particular local kwledge that can help to relate technical facts to social values. In Citizens, Experts and the Environment Frank Fischer explores this often strained interaction between technical environmental experts and citizen participants and proposes a new model of politics based on participatory inquiry and citizen-expert synergy. Where information ideologues see the modern increase in information as capable of making everyone smarter, others see the emergence of a society divided between those with and those without kwledge. Suggesting realistic strategies to bridge this divide, Fischer calls for meaningful nexpert involvement in policymaking and show how the deliberations of ordinary citizens can help solve complex social and environmental problems by contributing ntechnical kwledge to the professionals' expertise. While incorporating theoretical critiques of positivism and methodology, he also offers hard evidence to demonstrate that the ordinary citizen is capable of a great deal more participation than is generally recognized. Recent situations in Copenhagen, Denmark; Woburn, Massachusetts; and Kerala, India, serve as models of the participatory inquiry he proposes, showing how the local kwledge of citizens is invaluable to policy formation. In his conclusion Fischer moves his model from the context of environmental issues to the larger societal issues of deliberative structures and participatory democracy. This study should interest political scientists, public policy practitioners, sociologists, scientists, environmentalists, activists, urban planners and public administrators along with those interested in understanding the relationship between democracy and science in a modern techlogical society.
Frank Fischer is Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University in Newark and member of the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy in New Brunswick. He is the author of Evaluating Public Policy and Technocracy and the Politics of Expertise, among other books, and has coedited a number more, including The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning, also published by Duke University Press, and Living with Nature: Environmental Politics and Cultural Discourse.