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Technocracy and democracy as spheres of justice in public policy


  • Bruce Gilley

    () (Portland State University)


Abstract There is a long-standing debate about the proper application of democratic versus technocratic approaches to decision-making in public policy. This paper seeks to clarify the debate by applying Michael Walzer’s notion of “spheres of justice,” wherein both democracy and technocracy could be seen as distinctive approaches to justice that need to be protected from the domination of the other. The paper shows how the debate on democracy versus technocracy has evolved in both theoretical and applied settings in a manner that reflects the “domination” of one approach by the other. It elaborates the argument through several concrete examples drawn from comparative politics, public policy, and public management. It then explores how the “spheres” approach implies the need for an interpretive mechanism in order to mediate the competing notions of justice in particular policy issues.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce Gilley, 2017. "Technocracy and democracy as spheres of justice in public policy," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 50(1), pages 9-22, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:policy:v:50:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11077-016-9260-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s11077-016-9260-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bryan Caplan, 2007. "Introduction to The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies," Introductory Chapters,in: The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies Princeton University Press.
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    5. Manuel Fischer & Philip Leifeld, 2015. "Policy forums: Why do they exist and what are they used for?," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 48(3), pages 363-382, September.
    6. Douglas M. Walker & Shannon M. Kelly, 2011. "The Roots Of Modern ‘Social Cost Of Gambling’ Estimates," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(1), pages 38-42, March.
    7. Michael Sam & Jay Scherer, 2006. "The Steering Group as Policy Advice Instrument: A Case of “Consultocracyâ€\x9D in Stadium Subsidy Deliberations," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 39(2), pages 169-181, June.
    8. Carolyn Hendriks, 2009. "Policy design without democracy? Making democratic sense of transition management," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 42(4), pages 341-368, November.
    9. Jurian Edelenbos & Nienke Schie & Lasse Gerrits, 2010. "Organizing interfaces between government institutions and interactive governance," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 43(1), pages 73-94, March.
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    1. repec:kap:policy:v:51:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11077-017-9305-1 is not listed on IDEAS


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