Epistemic Perspectives on Democracy and the Market

This workshop aims to stimulate a productive dialogue between those working on epistemic arguments for and against democracy and the market. We welcome papers focused exclusively on epistemic democracy, papers focused exclusively on epistemic arguments for markets, and papers which bring the two debates together.

Alongside the tradition of epistemic democracy there is an opposing tradition, including Hayekian economics, of epistemic arguments for markets. Both traditions reject idealised epistemic assumptions such as normative certainty and agreement (common in ideal theorising about justice) and perfect information (common in neoclassical economics). Instead, epistemic perspectives take the reality of ignorance and uncertainty as the starting point for institutional design, and place the creation, communication and use of knowledge at the centre of their analysis.

Despite their similar methods and divergent conclusions, debates on epistemic democracy and on epistemic approaches to markets have proceeded in relative isolation from one another. This workshop hopes to bring scholars from the two fields together, both to explicitly compare markets and democracy, and also for people working on questions in one field to gain insights from those in the other.

Contributors may want to consider some of the following topics:

  • What are the relative epistemic merits of democracy and the market?
  • Should democracy and the market be insulated from each other to preserve their epistemic merits, or combined to improve their epistemic potential?
  • Do the different institutions deal with different kinds of knowledge (moral/empirical, tacit/propositional etc.)?
  • Do the epistemic merits of political systems depend on their inclusiveness, or on elitist checks to democratic power?
  • Does the epistemic value of the market require a roughly equal distribution of resources, or does it require inequality?
  • What are the relative contributions of deliberation and voting to the epistemic value of democracy?
  • How do markets make use of knowledge, and how can these mechanisms go wrong?
  • What are the normative implications of empirical work on public knowledge and ignorance about politics and economics?
  • Is epistemic merit better served by more decentralised or more centralised institutions? (eg., federalism in democracies, economies of scale in markets)
  • How important is the creation of new knowledge through experimentation compared to the transmission of existing knowledge?
  • How do epistemic perspectives on markets and democracy fit into debates on political liberalism and ideal/nonideal theory?
  • Epistemic perspectives on democracy and markets in specific areas such as the environment, education and health.
  • Friedrich Hayek and the Austrian school of economics
  • Topics and authors in epistemic democracy, deliberative democracy and elitist critics of democracy

Submission Details:

We welcome submissions from people at all career stages, including graduate students. Abstracts should be 300-400 WORDS and suitable for a 25 minute presentation. Please send your abstract and contact details to j.benson@manchester.ac.uk by the DEADLINE OF MAY 20th. Decisions on abstracts will be made by June 3rd.


If you have any further questions please feel free to contact either Michael Bennett (m.bennett@york.ac.uk) or Jonathan Benson (j.benson@manchester.ac.uk)