In October 2018, two new research projects – Expertise Under Pressure and Giving Voice to Digital Democracies – will inaugurate the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change, Cambridge. We are delighted to welcome Professor Michael Kenny, Co-Investigator of Expertise Under Pressure, to the Centre and asked about his hopes for the project.
Michael Kenny is Professor of Politics and inaugural Director of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, at Cambridge. He previously held positions at the Queen’s University, Belfast, the University of Sheffield, and Queen Mary University of London where he was the inaugural Director of the Mile End Institute. Read his biography here.
Q. Professor Kenny, which aspect of Expertise Under Pressure do you find most exciting?
The project represents an exciting collaboration between scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds and intellectual traditions who are committed to working together to explore some of the deep philosophical issues and practical challenges associated with the complex relationship between social knowledge and public policy. This project affords me the opportunity to develop an in-depth analysis of the important role played by theorists associated with agglomeration economics upon policy-making at both national and city levels in different developed countries. Being able to explore such a case in academic depth, whilst engaging with the interests of a wider group of academics focusing upon the complex nature of expertise, makes this a particularly attractive and exciting venture for me.
Q. How does your own area of interest relate to the project’s primary research questions?
The case study that I will lead will shed light on some of the core questions which lie at the heart of this project. What kinds of political and institutional factor explain the influence of some experts and their associated modes of thinking, and the marginalisation of others? Is this kind of question typically determined by political and economic interests over which outside experts have little control? Or, can the ideas and visions of intellectuals help shape which experts are taken more or less seriously? And what happens when the climate of opinion shifts, and the orthodoxies of one period give way to rival visions and ideas?
Q. What are your hopes for the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change?
My keen hope would be that the Centre becomes a conduit and catalyst for new kinds of thinking about the relationship between expert knowledge and public affairs. In an era characterised by disruption and turbulence, it is increasingly imperative to explore forms of collective action and governance that are less technocratic in character, more experimental and open-ended in kind, and more likely to yield enduring and sustainable solutions to some of our most intractable problems.