The politics of facts: environmental conflicts and expertise
Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Uomo University of Trieste Trieste, Italy
Conflicts over the environment and technology have been characterising for many years the political arena. The role played by science and expertise has been widely recognised, as a powerful tool for developing and legitimizing in the public sphere arguments for and against land uses and technology applications. Yet this has seldom represented a specific focus of inquiry. Moreover, the picture is today more entangled than it used to be. Rather than a way to overcome it, expert knowledge and advice are increasingly becoming a site of contention. The social distribution and recognition of expertise is changing, and traditional appeals to 'sound science' are challenged by more controversial, nuanced understandings of the relationship between science and politics.
A study under completion carried out in Italy and based on in depth case studies sought to address this issue. Some results will be presented and some attempts at interpreting them will be endeavoured. I will focus especially on the interplay of technical and political legitimacy and on the different forms and roles expertise may take in the public discursive arena. To build suitable analytical tools I will draw on three main sources: studies on expertise and the science-policy interface, literature on the public sphere and the transformation of politics, and social movement scholarship.