Strategies of Expertise in Technical Controversies

A Study of Wood Energy Development
Frederick Frankena
Lehigh University Press - Strategies of Expertise in Technical Controversies

This book examines how technical expertise has been used in controversies connected with the development of wood for electric power in the United States. It makes use of a comparative structure, repeating the major case several times in the context of different conceptual frameworks. Viewing the problem from various perspectives serves to better describe and explain technical controversy and the concomitant role and impact of experts and expertise. The book presents a revelatory case of national importance, and as such, it is a window of opportunity for learning more about technical controversies and the policy implications for wood energy development.

Part I, "Experts, Expertise, and Social Change," provides background information and a review of literature pertinent to studying wood energy development controversies. In Part II, "Wood Energy Controversies," the nature of wood energy development is discussed and the cases are described and compared in detail. Wood energy policy is treated in terms of what has been revealed by the study of related controversies. Part III, "A Social Study of Wood Energy Controversy," reanalyzes the cases to better understand the dynamics of technical controversy. The study concludes with a discussion of its implications for the tension between technocratic and democratic decision making.

The first three chapters cover the theoretical and policy context for wood energy controversies. A detailed description of the Hersey case is then presented in chapter 4. Chapter 5 examines subsequent controversies at Indian River, Michigan; Quincy and Westwood, California; and Burlington, Vermont. These comparisons reinforce and generalize findings of the Hersey controversy. The policy dilemmas of wood energy development are illustrated in chapter 6, using Michigan as an example.

The Hersey controversy is reanalyzed in chapters 7 and 8, and chapter 9 seeks to extend the understanding of controversy, drawing upon the analyses and cases in the foregoing chapters. Finally, chapter 10 provides some general conclusions about the strategies of experts and expertise in technical controversies in the context of technocratic versus democratic decision making.

The strategies of expertise portend neither a threat to the integrity of science nor the ultimate demise of democratic values. Disagreements among experts and resulting technical controversy should be viewed as healthy activities in a democratic society. Such controversies appear to be a necessary means for political reckoning of the value issues in technical decisions. On the other hand, the adversarial approach engendered by conflict is socially inefficient. The pursuit of democratic values would suggest that the public be made a genuine party to the process of technical decision making.

ISBN: 
0934223149 (AUP)
Price: 
$42.50
Year: 
1992
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