Misinformation, Expertise and Challenges to Democracy

September 7, 2022 - September 9, 2022
Department of Politics , University of Manchester

Arthur Lewis Building and University Place
Oxford rd
Manchester M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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CFA: Misinformation, Expertise and Challenges to Democracy

Convenors: Jonathan Benson, University of Manchester / Carline Klijnman, University of Genoa / Lucas Dijker, University College Dublin

It is now common in both academic and public debates to talk of democracy’s epistemic problems. The 2016 election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote, for instance, spread many concerns for the impact of misinformation on democratic debate. The seeming rise of fake news and conspiracy theories in contemporary politics presents empirical questions about the root causes of such phenomena, but also normative questions concerning their impacts on democratic values and appropriate policy responses. The Covid-19 pandemic has similarly highlighted problems of misinformation, but also the inescapable role of scientific expertise in democratic politics. While expert testimony is often crucial to policy issues as diverse as climate change and internet regulation, public discourse appears to be increasingly polarised so that even scientific reporting becomes the subject of partisan hostility, prompting questions regarding the nature and stability of public trust in science. Questions are therefore raised about the appropriate role of knowledge and expertise in a democratic society, and whether potential epistemic dysfunctions threaten to undermine core democratic values. 

While misinformation and expertise often take centre stage in discussions of democracy’s epistemic challenges, such concerns extend also to issues of testimony and epistemic injustice, political polarisation, populism and technocracy, voter ignorance, and developments in media and communication technology. All these issues raise instrumental concerns about the effectiveness of democratic decision-making and its ability to produce desirable outcomes, but also procedural concerns for mutual respect, the equal standing of citizens, and the quality of democratic deliberation and public justification. 

This workshop invites discussion of these epistemic challenges and the wider normative questions they provoke about the role of knowledge and expertise in democratic politics. Topics of interest to the workshop include, but are not limited to, the following:                                         

  • How prevalent are issues of political misinformation and what are their normative implications (if any) for democracy? 
  • What desirable solutions may exist for issues of fake news, conspiracy theory, and political misinformation? 
  • What is the appropriate/legitimate role for expertise in a democracy, and what challenges affect the relationship between experts and citizens? 
  • What factors (should) influence trust in experts and expert testimony, and what challenges may a dependence on such trust pose? 
  • What problems may epistemic injustice pose in democratic debate and deliberation? 
  • Does polarisation and partisanship influence the epistemic quality of democracy?  
  • How has social media and other information technologies benefited/undermined the spreading of information in contemporary democracies?  
  • What are the epistemic limits of democracy in comparison to its alternatives (e.g. epistocracy, political meritocracy, free-markets etc.)? 

Submission Details

We welcome submissions in the form of a 400-word (maximum) abstract, prepared for blind review, which can be submitted to [email protected]. The deadline for submissions is the 3rd  of June. Submissions should be made suitable for a 20-30 minutes presentation. We encourage in person attendance, but an online option will also be made available. If you have any further questions, please send them to the above address.   

This panel is organised in association with the Hallsworth Fellowship Fund and Horizon 2020 PERITIA.

MANCEPT Workshops

The MANCEPT Workshops is an annual conference in political theory and held at The University of Manchester from the 7th to 9th September 2022. Note that all speakers and attendees have to pay an attendance fee. The conference offers bursaries for current graduate students with an application deadline of the 27th of June. For more information about the conference, please see: https://sites.manchester.ac.uk/mancept/mancept-workshops/

Registration will open in May. This year’s conference fees are:

Online attendance

Academics: £45.00

PG: £20.00

Non-speaker: £15.00 


Academics: £ 230.00

PG: £135.00

Dinner: £30

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June 27, 2022, 9:00am BST

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