Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 32, Issue 3, 2022

New Faces of Democracy

Janusz GrygieńćOrcid-ID
Pages 47-64

Liberal Democracy: Between Epistemic Autonomy and Dependence

Understanding the relationship between experts and laypeople is crucial for under-standing today’s world of post-truth and the contemporary crisis of liberal democracy. The emergence of post-truth has been linked to various phenomena such as a flawed social and mass media ecosystem, poor citizen education, and the manipulation tactics of powerful interest groups. The paper argues that the problem is, however, more profound. The underlying issue is laypeople’s inevitable epistemic dependence on experts. The latter is part and parcel of the “risk society” in which people question the scientific consensus and thus are able to manipulate the facts. It is a powerful weapon in the hands of illiberal democrats, though liberal democrats can make no use of it. The latter downplay the problem of citizens’ epistemic deficits and of the epistemic asymmetries be-tween them. The third and fourth generations of deliberative democrats are a perfect example. The paper argues that the concepts of interactional expertise and epistemic dependence explain why understanding between experts and laypeople is impossible. The said phenomena undermine liberalism’s unrealistic assumptions concerning citi-zens’ decision-making competence.

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