The Crisis of Expertise
The Crisis of Expertise

In recent political debates there has been a significant change in the valence of the word “experts” from a superlative to a near pejorative, typically accompanied by a recitation of experts’ many failures and misdeeds. In topics as varied as Brexit, climate change, and vaccinations there is a palpable mistrust of experts and a tendency to dismiss their advice. Are we witnessing, therefore, the “death of expertise,” or is the handwringing about an “assault on science” merely the hysterical reaction of threatened elites?

In this new book, Gil Eyal argues that what needs to be explained is not a one-sided “mistrust of experts” but the two-headed <i>pushmi-pullyu</i> of unprecedented reliance on science and expertise, on the one hand, coupled with increased skepticism and dismissal of scientific findings and expert opinion, on the other. The current mistrust of experts is best understood as one more spiral in an on-going, recursive crisis of legitimacy. The “scientization of politics,” of which critics warned in the 1960s, has brought about a politicization of science, and the two processes reinforce one another in an unstable, crisis-prone mixture. 

This timely book will be of great interest to students and scholars in the social sciences and to anyone concerned about the political uses of, and attacks on, scientific knowledge and expertise.

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  • November 2019
  • 208 pages
  • 143 x 219 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $64.95
  • 9780745665771
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9780745665788
  • Open eBook $19.99
  • 9781509538874
Table of Contents
Introduction    The Crisis

Chapter 1  Expertise

Chapter 2  The Debate about Expertise

Chapter 3  Trust

Chapter 4  Risk

Chatper 5  Crisis, Take 2

Chapter 6  Inside the Vortex

Chapter 7  Balaam’s Blessing

Conclusions, or, Trans-science as a Vocation
About the Author
Gil Eyal is Professor of Sociology at Columbia University
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“This impressive piece of scholarship explores contemporary debates about the nature of expertise and their relationship to politics in novel ways. Eyal writes with verve and a great eye for metaphor, which makes the book a great read.”
Harry Collins, Cardiff University 

“Gil Eyal thinks that the present-day crisis of expertise is substantial and serious but that it has not yet been properly described. His attempt to supply that description is necessary reading for our troubled times.”
Steven Shapin, Harvard University

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