Expertise, “Scientification,” and the Authority of Science

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



authority, democracy, expertise, Marquis de Condorcet, scientific controversy, tacit knowledge

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



The problem of the role of experts in society may seem to be a topic marginal to the main concerns of sociology, but it is in fact deeply rooted in the sociological project itself. Sociologists and social thinkers have long been concerned with the problem of the role of knowledge in society. Certain Enlightenment thinkers, notably Turgot and Condorcet, believed that social progress depended on the advance of knowledge and the wider dispersion of knowledge in society. But Condorcet especially recognized that this idea had complex political implications. On the one hand, it required science, which for him included social science, to be supported by the state, yet retain independence or self‐governance in order to advance without political interference. On the other hand, he recognized that social advance required that the most enlightened be the rulers, and that this conflicted with the ideas of democracy and equality.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Expertise, “Scientification,” and the Authority of Science, in G. Ritzer, J. M. Ryan & B. Thorn (Eds.), The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology (1st Ed.), John Wiley & Sons, p. 1541-1543