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[Séminaire du LISIS] – Gil Eyal – Futures Present: The Pandemic and the Crisis of Expertise – 11/01/21 à 15h – en ligne

Gil Eyal, professeur de sociologie à Columbia University, sera l’invité du séminaire du LISIS, avec le soutien de l’IFRIS. Il s’appuiera sur une analyse de la pandémie Covid-19 pour étayer sa thèse d’une crise de l’expertise (Gil Eyal, The crisis of expertise, Polity 2019). La discussion sera introduite par David Demortain.

La séance aura lieu le lundi 11 janvier 2021 de 15h à 17h en visioconférence.

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If anybody thought that the role of experts in democratic politics is a sideshow to the more important distributional or ideological politics, the Coronavirus pandemic should have disabused them of this notion. There is hardly a variable currently more predictive of the distinctive fortunes of countries (and thus, of the life chances of millions of people) then the way in which the relations between experts, decision-makers and the public are configured. Where these relations seem to be in deep crisis, further exacerbated by the pandemic, as in the US and UK, the body bags are still piling up. Where there was no such crisis to begin with, as in China, Thailand, South Korea or Taiwan the response has been decisive and the recovery swifter. In this talk, I’d like to place the pandemic in the context of a much broader and longer-term crisis of expertise in liberal-democratic societies: while experts have never been more in demand, they are also less credible now than ever before. The two relations – dependence and distrust – feed off and amplify one another. There are multiple processes and factors contributing to this dynamic, of which I will outline eight: 1) The intensification of jurisdictional struggles among experts; 2) the dynamic of “overflowing” of economic and technological risks; 3) the legitimation crisis of the capitalist state; 4) the growth of regulatory science; 5) the temporal dynamics of trust; 6) the interplay between competing strategies for making the future present; 7) the collapse of the academic and media gatekeepers; 8) the rise of lay expertise.

Gil Eyal is a professor of sociology at Columbia University. He works in a broad field that encompasses sociological research on science, medicine, professions, intellectuals, and knowledge, especially as these intersect with political and legal institutions. Eyal calls it the ‘sociology of expertise,’ because this term does not prejudge who or what is included within the field, and because it focuses attention not only on who is considered an expert but also on what is involved in the expert performance of a task. He developed this approach to expertise in a 2013 American Journal of Sociology article titled « For a Sociology of Expertise: The Social Origins of the Autism Epidemic,” which summarized and extended the argument of an earlier book, The Autism Matrix (Polity, 2010). He is currently interested in understanding the causes and dimensions of the contemporary mistrust of experts. His new book, The Crisis of Expertise (Polity 2019), argues that what we are witnessing now are symptoms of a recursive credibility problem, in which attempts to solve the problem, from boundary-work to the recognition of lay expertise, only seem to make it worse.

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