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Recent discussions of accountability in contexts of expert knowledge raise questions about the limits of transparency. Against this background, we discuss the nexus between expert knowledge and meaningful accountability – that is, context-sensitive accountability based on a genuine understanding of a situation. We argue that the concentration of expertise in certain institutions makes it difficult to hold those institutions accountable. In particular, three components challenge meaningful accountability: specialization, inaccessibility and potential biases or conflict of interest. We emphasize the role of ‘epistemic communities’ and their impact on the tension between expert knowledge and independence. Drawing on the deliberative systems literature, we discuss how expert knowledge might be communicated to outsiders to enable meaningful accountability. To illustrate our argument, we draw on the European Central Bank, a case study in which states have chosen a delegation design characterized by a high degree of independence and trust in expert knowledge, to the detriment of accountability. We sketch possible avenues for creating the conditions for meaningful accountability even in the case of institutions with highly concentrated expertise.
Markets allow for the processing of decentralized information through the price mechanism. But in addition, many markets rely on other mechanisms in markets, or non-market institutions, that provide and manage other forms of knowledge. Within national economies, these institutions form an ‘epistemic infrastructure’ for markets. In global markets, in contrast, this epistemic infrastructure is very patchy, undermining the preconditions for morally responsible agency. New technologies might help to improve the epistemic infrastructure of global markets, but they require conceptualizing knowledge not only as a tradable good, but also as a precondition of morally responsible agency.
This article considers how legal systems capture different cultural perceptions of work in an individual’s life. We inquire how two models—“human capital,” based on the works of Adam Smith; and “vocation,” based on the works of G. W. F. Hegel—are reflected in legal regulations and judicial rhetoric in the United States and Germany. Specifically, we examine how these two legal systems treat the practice of using personal names—the most direct referents to individuals’ identities—in business. We discuss three sets of cases: cases involving the use of personal names as trademarks, cases involving conflicts between parties with similar names, and cases involving the transfer of rights in personal names. The article demonstrates that the US legal system treats work as a commercial asset, as “human capital” in Smith’s sense, whereas German law perceives work as an integral part of one’s identity, echoing the Hegelian line of “vocation.”
Fear responses are particularly intense and persistent in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and can be evoked by unspecific cues that resemble the original traumatic event. Overgeneralisation of fear might be one of the underlying mechanisms. We investigated the generalisation and discrimination of fear in individuals with and without PTSD related to prolonged childhood maltreatment.
Sixty trauma-exposed women with (N = 30) and without (N = 30) PTSD and 30 healthy control participants (HC) underwent a fear conditioning and generalisation paradigm. In a contingency learning procedure, one of two circles of different sizes was associated with an electrical shock (danger cue), while the other circle represented a safety cue. During generalisation testing, online risk ratings, reaction times and fear-potentiated startle were measured in response to safety and danger cues as well as to eight generalisation stimuli, i.e. circles of parametrically varying size creating a continuum of similarity between the danger and safety cue.
The increase in reaction times from the safety cue across the different generalisation classes to the danger cue was less pronounced in PTSD compared with HC. Moreover, PTSD participants expected higher risk of an aversive event independent of stimulus types and task.
Alterations in generalisation constitute one part of fear memory alterations in PTSD. Neither the accuracy of a risk judgement nor the strength of the induced fear was affected. Instead, processing times as an index of uncertainty during risk judgements suggested a reduced differentiation between safety and threat in PTSD.
This article reintroduces a long-forgotten argument into the debate about social justice: Durkheim's argument from “organic solidarity,” as presented in The Division of Labor in Society. “Organic solidarity” is solidarity based on differentiation. According to Durkheim, it grows out of the division of labor, but only if the latter happens “spontaneously.” Social inequality creates obstacles to such spontaneity because it distorts prices, such that they are perceived as unjust, and it undermines equality of opportunity. Hence, Durkheim's argument connects commutative justice and distributive justice. The article argues that Durkheim's argument is plausible, interesting, and relevant for today. After presenting the argument, discussing its structure and methodology, and evaluating its plausibility by drawing on related contemporary debates, it focuses on the problem of the perception of social justice and the possibility of ideological distortions. It concludes by sketching the research program that follows from Durkheim's argument.
This article makes a positive case for an ethnographic sensibility in political theory. Drawing on published ethnographies and original fieldwork, it argues that an ethnographic sensibility can contribute to normative reflection in five distinct ways. It can help uncover the nature of situated normative demands (epistemic argument); diagnose obstacles encountered when responding to these demands (diagnostic argument); evaluate practices and institutions against a given set of values (evaluative argument); probe, question and refine our understanding of values (valuational argument); and uncover underlying social ontologies (ontological argument). The contribution of ethnography to normative theory is distinguished from that of other forms of empirical research, and the dangers of perspectival absorption, bias and particularism are addressed.