1. Democratic Prospects in an Age of Expertise
Giddens explains expert systems in the following words: ‘‘By expert
systems I refer to systems of technical accomplishment or professional
expertise that organize large areas of the material and social environ-
ments in which we live today. Most laypersons consult ‘profession-
als’—lawyers, architects, doctors, and so forth—only in a periodic or
irregular fashion. But the systems in which the knowledge of experts is
integrated influence many aspects of what we do in a continuous way.
Simply by sitting in my house, I am involved in an expert system, or a
series of such systems, in which I place my reliance. I have no particular
fear in going upstairs in the dwelling, even though I know that in
principle the structure might collapse. I know very little about the
codes of knowledge used by the architect and the builder in the design
and construction of the home, but I nonetheless have ‘faith’ in what
they have done. My ‘faith’ is not so much in them, although I have to
trust their competence, as in the authenticity of the expert knowledge
which they apply—something which I cannot usually check exhaus-
tively myself’’ (Giddens 1990, 27–28).
One can, to be sure, point to the ways that the Internet and email have
connected peoples all over the world. Some have even seen this as the
basis for a new kind of civil society. But here the arguments of those
critical of this view remain persuasive. When it comes to politics, Inter-
net users remain isolated individuals with none of the social bonds or
face-to-face interactions that provide the basis for a political move-
ment or group. Thus far, in any case, there is no compelling evidence to
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