Citizens, Experts, and the Environment

The Politics of Local Knowledge

Citizens, Experts, and the Environment

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 5 figures Published: December 2000

Author: Frank Fischer

Environmental Studies, Politics > Public Policy

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 ignore forms of local knowledge that can help to relate technical facts to social values.
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 knowledge. Suggesting realistic strategies to bridge this divide, Fischer calls for meaningful nonexpert involvement in policymaking and shows how the deliberations of ordinary citizens can help solve complex social and environmental problems by contributing local contextual knowledge 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. Popular epidemiology in the United States, the Danish consensus conference, and participatory resource mapping in India serve as examples of the type of inquiry he proposes, showing how the local knowledge of citizens is invaluable to policy formation. In his conclusion Fischer examines the implications of the approach for participatory democracy and the democratization of contemporary deliberative structures.
This study will interest political scientists, public policy practitioners, sociologists, scientists, environmentalists, political activists, urban planners, and public administrators along with those interested in understanding the relationship between democracy and science in a modern technological society.


Citizens, Experts, and the Environment is real achievement. Building on his earlier work, Fischer presents a synthesis of a ‘postpositivist’ public policy approach and locates it clearly in contemporary environmental concerns and epistemology.” — Patsy Healey, Centre for Research in European Urban Environments, University of Newcastle

“An impressive, interesting, and multifaceted work. Fischer provides the reader with a wide and fascinating range of theoretical and policy-oriented materials, weaves in real life problems of public participation (or lack thereof) from around the world, and effectively brings together important concerns.” — Alan Mandell, State University of New York, Empire State College

“This is a very carefully crafted work that asks critical questions rarely asked well in policy studies and utilizes literatures not typically read in policy analysis circles. In doing so, Fischer effectively challenges the dominant mode of organization in advanced industrial society. A masterfully-executed study.” — Timothy W. Luke, Virginia Polytechnic and State University at Blacksburg


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Part I. Citizens and Experts in the Risk Society 1

1. Democratic Prospects in an Age of Expertise: Confronting the Technocratic Challenge 5

2. Professional Knowledge and Citizen Participation: Rethinking Expertise 29

3. Environmental Crisis and the Technocratic Challenge: Expertise in the Risk Society 47

4. The Return of the Particular: Scientific Inquiry and Local Knowledge in Postpositivist Perspective 68

Part II. Environmental Politics in the Public Sphere: Technical versus Cultural Rationality 87

5. Science and Politics in Environmental Regulation: The Politicization of Expertise 89

6. Confronting Experts in the Public Sphere: The Environmental Movement as Cultural Politics 109

7. Not in My Backyard: Risk Assessment and the Politics of Cultural Rationality 124

Part III. Local Knowledge and Participatory Inquiry: Methodological Practices for Political Empowerment 143

8. Citizens as Local Experts: Popular Epidemiology and Participatory Resource Mapping 147

9. Community Inquiry and Local Knowledge: The Political and Methodological Foundations of Participatory Research 170

10. Ordinary Local Knowledge: From Potato Farming to Environmental Protection 193

Part IV. Discursive Institutions and Policy Epistemics 219

11. Discursive Institutions for Environmental Policy Making: Participatory Inquiry as Civic Discovery 221

12. The Environments of Argument: Deliberative Practices and Policy Epistemics 242

Appendixes 263

Notes 279

References 299

Index 329
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2622-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2628-1
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