PODCAST | Political Theory and the Idea of Expertise

This is part of the Democracy Futures Seminar Series, Wednesday 2 September 2015

In this seminar, Associate Professor Robert Lamb explains the sense in which political theorists or philosophers can and should be thought to hold expertise and, more crucially, the sense in which they can and should not. He begins by outlining and endorsing a ‘qualitative continuity’ thesis that defines political theory in such a way as to posit an essential crossover between the activities of professional philosophers and those of ordinary citizens. He offers a conceptual account of the professional expertise that can be ascribed to political philosophers, and then argues that it is mistake to extend the scholarly authority that this generates to the normative political domain of a community. After rejecting the case for the vision of theorist as normative political expert, he unpacks what seems to be the most significant consequence of its abandonment: this is the commitment to an alternative ideal of the ‘citizen-philosopher’. This ideal implies an ecumenical and pluralistic understanding of political theory and has ramifications for debates about the appropriate role played by its scholarly practitioners in a democratic community.


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