Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 May 2009
How decision makers define state interests and formulate policies to deal with complex and technical issues can be a function of the manner in which the issues are represented by specialists to whom they turn for advice in the face of uncertainty. The contributors to this issue examine the role that networks of knowledge-based experts—epistemic communities—play in articulating the cause-and-effect relationships of complex problems, helping states identify their interests, framing the issues for collective debate, proposing specific policies, and identifying salient points for negotiation. Their analyses demonstrate that control over knowledge and information is an important dimension of power and that the diffusion of new ideas and data can lead to new patterns of behavior and prove to be an important determinant of international policy coordination.
For their comments on earlier versions of this article, I am grateful to Pete Andrews, Peter Cowhey, Barbara Crane, George Hoberg, Raymond Hopkins, Ethan Kapstein, Peter Katzenstein, Stephen Krasner, Craig Murphy, John Odell, Gail Osherenko, M. J. Peterson, Gene Rochlin, and Richard Sclove.
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4. The term “epistemic communities” has been defined or used in a variety of ways, most frequently to refer to scientific communities. In this volume, we stress that epistemic communities need not be made up of natural scientists or of professionals applying the same methodology that natural scientists do. Moreover, when referring to epistemic communities consisting primarily of natural scientists, we adopt a stricter definition than do, for example, Holzner and Marx, who use the term “epistemic community” in reference to a shared faith in the scientific method as a way of generating truth. This ignores that such faith can still bond together people with diverse interpretations of ambiguous data. By our definition, what bonds members of an epistemic community is their shared belief or faith in the verity and the applicability of particular forms of knowledge or specific truths. Our notion of “epistemic community” somewhat resembles Fleck's notion of a “thought collective”—a sociological group with a common style of thinking. It also somewhat resembles Kuhn's broader sociological definition of a paradigm, which is “an entire constellation of beliefs, values, techniques, and so on shared by members of a given community” and which governs “not a subject matter but a group of practitioners.” See Holzner, Burkhart and Marx, John H., Knowledge Application: The Knowledge System in Society (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1979), pp. 107–11;Google ScholarFleck, Ludwig, Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979; translated from the 1935 edition printed in German)Google Scholar; and Kuhn, Thomas S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), pp. 174–210, with quotes drawn from pp. 175 and 180. Regarding scientific communities, See alsoGoogle ScholarPolanyi, Michael, “The Republic of Science,” Minerva, vol. 1, 1962, pp. 54–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
5. Other characteristics of epistemic communities that were mentioned or discussed during the preparation of this volume included the following: members of an epistemic community share intersubjective understandings; have a shared way of knowing; have shared patterns of reasoning; have a policy project drawing on shared values, shared causal beliefs, and the use of shared discursive practices; and have a shared commitment to the application and production of knowledge. These phrases were not incorporated in the formal definition listed here; they are simply provided to evoke additional notions that are associated with epistemic communities. a For examples, See Gilpin, Robert, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Krasner, Stephen D., Structural Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985)Google Scholar; and Waltz, Kenneth N., Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979).Google Scholar b For examples, See Cardoso, Fernando Henrique and Faletto, Enzo, Dependency and Development in Latin America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979)Google Scholar; Evans, Peter, Dependent Development (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979)Google Scholar; Evans, Peter, “Declining Hegemony and Assertive Industrialization,” International Organization 43 (Spring 1989), pp. 207–38;CrossRefGoogle ScholarGaltung, Johan, The True Worlds (New York: Free Press, 1984)Google Scholar; and Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Capitalist World Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).Google Scholar c For examples, See Derian, James Der and Shapiro, Michael J., eds., International/Intertextual Relations (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1989)Google Scholar; and Ashley, Richard K. and Walker, R. B. J., eds., “Speaking the Language of Exile Dissidence in International Studies,” special issue of International Studies Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 3, 09 1990.Google Scholar
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39. According to the definition of epistemic communities employed in this volume, community members have intersubjective, internally defined validity tests. This contrasts with Ernst Haas's usage of the concept of epistemic communities, in which he explicitly mentions that such communities “profess beliefs in extracommunity reality tests.” See Haas, Ernst B., When Knowledge Is Power (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), p. 41Google Scholar. Although there are other differences between his and our usage, they are fairly minor. I believe that this particular difference in emphasis on intracommunity versus extracommunity truth tests springs primarily from differing overarching historical visions. Ernst Haas seeks to demonstrate the evolution of rationality over time, possibly through the gradual intercession of epistemic communities into collective decision making. For such a normative claim to be sustained, the epistemic community must share a common basis for validation of its understanding with the broader policy community. Conversely, I am much more skeptical about such universal validity claims and am content to settle for the less ambitious internal truth tests. While in most cases members outside the epistemic community may concur that validity claims exist, it is less clear that they would be able to identify or evaluate them.
40. According to A. M. Carr-Saunders, “What we now call a profession emerges when a number of persons are found to be practicing a definite technique founded upon specialized training.” Carr-Saunders's classic formulation is cited by Vollmer, Howard M. and Mills, Donald L. in Professionalization (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966), p. 3Google Scholar. Subsequent sociologists have formulated a fuller definition that includes a reputation for authority, society's sanction, barriers to entry, a regulative code of conduct, and a service orientation. See Wilensky, Harold L., “The Professionalization of Everyone,” American Journal of Sociology 70 (09 1964), pp. 137–58;CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Schluchter, “Modes of Authority and Democratic Control.”
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