Eri Bertsou: Varieties of Expertise: What do citizens consider to be politically legitimate uses of expertise

Datum: 4 oktober 2023
Tid: 10:00-12:00

Venue: Institutet för framtidsstudier, Holländargatan 13, 4th floor, Stockholm, and online

Research seminar with Eri Bertsou Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of St. Gallen (HSG).


Can democratic politics incorporate citizen demands for independent expertise in ways that boost legitimacy and trust in politics? Democratic governments worldwide face the dilemma of how to deal with an ever-increasing call for technocratic expertise needed to govern effectively while remaining responsive to and representative of the citizens who elected them. The recent climate crisis and the global COVID19 pandemic highlighted the role of independent scientific expertise in guiding political decisions, but also the crucial role that citizens’ attitudes play in shaping policy effectiveness and trust in politics. From the perspective of citizens, we are currently presented with the following empirical puzzle: on the one hand, citizen surveys show growing demand for independent experts over politicians in political decision-making and a recognition that complex global problems require experts to solve them. On the other hand, we observe mounting public skepticism towards technical knowledge and scientific expertise, paired with soaring anti-elite rhetoric stoked by populist actors across established democracies. How can we reconcile these conflicting observable phenomena? The ‘Varieties of Expertise’ project asks “what constitutes ‘politically legitimate’ use of expertise in the eyes of citizens?” It proposes a typology for expertise in politics that can foster wider legitimacy and trust in political decisions, arguing that expertise is not monolithic. Qualitative and quantitative evidence is used to explore how different groups in society assess expertise and how they formulate their preferences for expert involvement in politics. First results show important cross-national differences in perceived legitimacy of experts, but also group differences about the criteria used when evaluating experts in politics.

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