Beyond evidence versus truthiness: toward a symmetrical approach to knowledge and ignorance in policy studies
In: Policy Sciences (peer-reviewed)
Published online: 24 April 2019
Current political developments in established liberal democracies in both Europe and North America have fundamentally called into question the normative relations between truth, knowledge and politics. Whether labeled “posttruth” or truthiness, commentators lament the willful spread and deployment of nonknowledge and ignorance as important political forces. In this paper, we discuss ignorance in its strategic dimension by weaving together insights from the sociology of ignorance with a policy-scientific approach. By means of three empirical vignettes, we demonstrate that ignorance is more than the flipside of knowledge or merely its lack: it is a constitutive feature of the policy process and is thus not uniquely symptomatic of the current era. We conclude by arguing for what we call a symmetrical approach in which ignorance receives the same quality of attention that knowledge has historically received in the policy sciences. To make fully visible the different forms of ignorance that shape policy processes, policy scholars must hone their “agnoto-epistemological sensibilities” to cope with the current challenges and advance a policy science for democracy.
Agnotology · Critical policy studies · Evidence-based policy · Knowledge ·
Ignorance · Policy sciences · Posttruth