New article in Policy sciences

In the wake of the Brexit referendum, the rise of the Tea Party and the election of Donald Trump, it is very tempting to believe that modern democracies must find ways to shift power from citizens to experts. “‘Technocracy,’ democracy … and corruption and trust” is a push-back against that belief, arguing for the need to acknowledge how various forms of corruption of expertise have helped contribute to today’s “populist” challenges.
The official version is available, behind a wall, here.* The “Accepted Manuscript” (my final submitted version), is available here.
* (Those with access to Carleton University Library journals may access it free of charge here.)

Main Lines of Research

In recent years, my writing and research have been focussed on three broad themes: multiculturalism, debates concerning religion and democracy, and the problem of facts and values in the social sciences and the policy world. The thread that unites these themes is an effort to reaffirm the value of respectful dialogue in a climate of polarization, and to challenge the latter’s intellectual underpinnings.

Multicultiphobia (2010) seeks to refocus and reinvigorate debate, not just on multiculturalism, but on the core norms of Canadian society.

After the ‘New Atheist’ debate (University of Toronto Press, 2014) attempts something analogous, in relation to a phenomenon that has garnered significant media attention in the past decade: the rise of the so-called “New Atheists” and the widespread backlash against them. By de-constructing this heated debate, this work seeks to help restore a space of social dialogue. An important section of the book seeks to demonstrate the pluralistic and dialogic basis of social norms, thus seeking to counter both the New Atheist claim that “science” alone can be the basis of ethics, and the firm conviction among opponents of the New Atheists that all sound morality must be theistic.

The work on facts and values, for its part, addresses the “non-cognitivist” view of norms as mere preferences that are beyond rational analysis. Unlike previous attacks on that view, this one will deploy arguments in the form of a multi-person discussion. This will allow the work to address legitimate normative concerns that, paradoxically, underpin the firm commitment to a divorce of “facts and values.” In so doing, it will also seek to counter the “post-positivist” response to the fact/value divide. The work will then trace out the implications of the argument for the practice of policy analysis.

“Could you really persuade, if we don’t listen?”, a November 2013 talk I gave at Simon Fraser University, presents the links between these research themes in greater detail.