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The Political Uses of Expert Knowledge


  • Page extent: 280 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.58 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 325.4
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: JV7590 .B69 2009
  • LC Subject headings:
    • European Union countries--Emigration and immigration--Government policy
    • Emigration and immigration--Research--European Union countries
    • Political planning--European Union countries
    • Policy sciences--Case studies
    • Knowledge, Sociology of--Case studies

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521517416)

Why do politicians and civil servants commission research and what use do they make of it in policymaking? The received wisdom is that research contributes to improving government policy. Christina Boswell challenges this view, arguing that policymakers are just as likely to value expert knowledge for two alternative reasons: as a way of lending authority to their preferences; or to signal their capacity to make sound decisions. Boswell develops a compelling new theory of the role of knowledge in policy, showing how policymakers use research to establish authority in contentious and risky areas of policy. She illustrates her argument with an analysis of European immigration policies, charting the ways in which expertise becomes a resource for lending credibility to controversial claims, underpinning high-risk decisions or bolstering the credibility of government agencies.


List of figures and tables; Acknowledgements; Part I. The Political Functions of Knowledge: 1. The puzzle: explaining the uses of knowledge; 2. Instrumental knowledge and organizational legitimacy; 3. The symbolic functions of knowledge; 4. The uses of knowledge in public policy debates; Part II. The Case of Immigration Policy: 5. The politics of immigration in Germany and the UK; 6. The British Home Office; 7. The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees; 8. The European Commission; 9. Organizations and cultures of expertise; Part III. Extending the Theory: 10. Knowledge and policy; References; Index.


'… this is an outstanding work of social science. As a result of its empirical and, above all, its theory-building ambitions, the volume deserves a wide readership not only of migration scholars but of all social scientists with an interest in policy processes and the role of knowledge in those processes … It cannot be recommended highly enough.' James Hampshire, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

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