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WANG Ming - Doctorante à l’Université Paris 8

Thèse en préparation

Ming WANG, "Research on Contemporary Western Epistemic Democracy Theory", thèse de science politique en préparation à l’Université Paris 8, sous la direction d’Yves Sintomer et de Wang Jiafeng (Université normale de Nanjing).

Abstract :

Does political decision-making need to rely on the judgment of experts or listen to the opinions of the people ? This question is very important for democracy. Different answers will determine whether democratic politics has legitimacy. One view is that in terms of the complexity of political decision-making, the judgment of experts is obviously better than that of the public, because experts often have higher epistemic ability. This view has a long historical tradition in political philosophy, which can be traced back to Plato’s Republic at least. Since the judgment of experts is better than the opinions of the people, experts should be given more decision-making power in political life, and the participation of ordinary people is not worth advocating. This view is very unfavorable to democratic politics. Critics of democracy often cite this view and believe that democracy cannot be trusted because its decision-making quality is worrying.

This undoubtedly poses a serious challenge to contemporary democracy advocates. To continue to support democratic politics, contemporary democratic theorists must meet this challenge and analyze and defend democracy based on its epistemic ability. This effort makes a so-called epistemic turn in the research of contemporary democratic theory, so the research of epistemic democracy has become an attractive research field. This article systematically sorts out the context and main research paths of contemporary epistemic democracy research, summarizes the main viewpoints and controversies in epistemic democracy research, and analyzes the current difficulties in epistemic democracy research and possible future development directions, in order to look forward to providing a theoretical map of Western epistemic democracy research for the Chinese literature community.

Since Cohen published “Epistemic Concept of Democracy” in 1986, epistemic democrats have developed a set of arguments, the core of which is to link democracy with collective wisdom, so as to provide an important defense for the epistemic ability of democratic politics : democratic politics can become an excellent political system because it is a smart collective decision-making procedure. Compared with other political arrangements, democratic politics is more likely to discover, tap and mobilize collective wisdom. It is worth noting that this defense is not only limited to the level of institutionalism, but also goes deep into the level of epistemology. Because epistemic democracy theory not only focuses on the decision-making process of democratic politics and believes that this process has more potential to produce knowledge, but also points to the evaluation of decision-making results. By combining the process of consultation and aggregation, epistemic democracy further shifts their focus to a result-oriented consideration, that is, how democratic procedures help democratic decision-making approach the correctness standard of procedural independence.

To sum up, there are two main lines for epistemic democrats to solve problems and discuss views : One is to defend the normative concept of democratic authority, that is, to establish the epistemic dimension of democratic authority ; The second is to seriously consider the problem of epistemic ability, that is, to prove that democracy has epistemic attributes. Future research may need to combine the above two paths to prove the empirical reliability and normative legitimacy of democratic results. In other words, epistemic democrats want reliable procedures, and citizens have reason to expect reliability, and finally prove that democracy has authority.

Research method :
Literature research, Historical comparisons, Interviews

20 mars 2023

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