This study questions the traditional story of the detachment and independence of expert bodies such as agencies, central banks and expert committees. It directs attention to the numerous institutional links with elected bodies and societal actors that we typify as mechanisms of stakeholder inclusion, government control and public and parliamentary scrutiny. With reference to EU examples, we illustrate that these socio-political ties of expert bodies are intensifying and attend to the normative implications of this ‘representative turn’. When expert bodies increasingly link up with societal and political actors, this can be a source of democratisation, but it can also politicise and undermine the independence of expertise. Against this background, the key question becomes how to reconcile the independence requirement of reliable expertise and the responsiveness requirement of democratic governance. We approach this question by, first, delineating a way of incorporating ideal and non-ideal concerns in normative assessment. Second, we identify the key normative challenges related to the legitimate role of experts in democracies and discuss institutional solutions to the ‘democratic-epistemic divide’ that strike a balance both between the two norms, and between ideal requirements and feasibility constraints.
This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/.