April 29, 2008

Social Science Quarterly

Posted in Publications, Social Science Quarterly at 7:41 PM by Brian Gareau


  • Neoliberal Knowledge: The Decline of Technocracy and the Weakening of the Montreal Protocol

By: E. Melanie DuPuis and Brian J. Gareau

Download: DuPuis.Gareau.SSQU_576.2008

ABSTRACT Objective. The turn to participatory, stakeholder modes of governance has been accompanied by the legitimization of a new ‘‘particularist knowledge regime” emphasizing the knowledge claims made by private interests and local voices. It has also tended to de-legitimize the ways of knowing that had characterized central state governance, namely, state expertise based on general welfare analytics such as cost-benefit analysis. This turn away from state expertise, what we call the ‘‘anti-technocratic consensus,” while stemming from democratic motivations, may actually make environmental governance less democratic. Method. We examine the problems that arise from the abandonment of general welfare economic analytics and technical expertise-the anti-technocratic consensus-through a specific case study: the recent handling of ‘‘critical use exemptions” to the ban on methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol, a treaty that mandates the elimination of methyl bromide in order to protect the ozone layer. We show that decisionmakers specifically rejected general welfare analytics as a basis of regulatory action in favor of a particularist form of analytics based on measuring market disruption. Results. This case illustrate how the de-legitimization of technical expertise can weaken the effectiveness of an environmental agreement in meeting its regulatory mandate. Critics have often criticized technical expertise as supporting the economic status quo. However, in the case of methyl bromide and the Montreal Protocol, technical experts using general welfare analytics represented a challenge to U.S. regulatory officials who supported industrial interests and their request for significant exemptions to the ban. Conclusion. The legitimization of a particularist knowledge regime opens up policy making to domination by private interests playing the stakeholder game. Stakeholder input and particularist knowledges are important to democratic decision making. However, technical expertise, despite all its weaknesses, is a form of knowledge that remains necessary to the protection of the environment and public health.