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Technocracy and Democracy: convergence, conflicts and negotiations. A comparative and global analysis of expert knowledge and political power (18th to 21th century)

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The link between knowledge and power in the Mediterranean from the 1800s onwards

The relationship between expert knowledge and political power has been widely discussed within the social sciences and humanities domain. An EU initiative explored the connection between the two.

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With EU funding, the TECHDEM (Technocracy and democracy: Convergence, conflicts and negotiations. A comparative and global analysis of expert knowledge and political power (18th to 21st century)) project studied the origins of technocracy and examined ways special or expert knowledge has become a source of legitimacy in public debate and in political decision-making. The focus was on experts, mainly engineers and physicians, who have been carrying out their activities in the northern Mediterranean from the 19th century until today. TECHDEM examined the ways in which changing configurations of political power have contributed to interpreting and shaping expert knowledge. It also looked at how, in turn, expert knowledge and experts have shaped political power and its channels or institutions. Findings show the multiple and interconnected positioning of experts. These groups shaped public policies from within and outside the administration, thus contributing to the creation and expansion of public opinion, particularly in the Mediterranean during the 19th century. To gather feedback from both experts and citizens in the debate, the TECHDEM team created a permanent monthly workshop open to the general public. These were primarily attended by undergraduate and postgraduate students, and academics who wished to contribute to the dialogue between academia and society. Researchers investigated spatial dimensions of knowledge production in urban space, and analysed the interaction of transnational and local aspects in professional and expert cultures. Project partners researched the ways masculinity was redefined through interaction with discourse surrounding the progress of civilization, and how gendered metaphors contributed to form and reproduce the nation. They also considered gender aspects of knowledge production from a comparative and transnational perspective. This led to several outreach activities aimed at civil society. By systematically exploring the relationship between power and knowledge, TECHDEM moved the public debate forward on the relationship between technocracy and democracy, and between expert and public opinion, in modern society.


Expert knowledge, political power, TECHDEM, technocracy, democracy

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