In a recent blog, Will Davies (following Mirowski) has argued that 'government 2.0' is the final realisation of the neo-liberal state. “No auditors, no experts, no objective knowledge, no sense of the common good, just maximum freedom for individuals to form opinions and privately process information.” He goes on to argue that siding with perspective over expertise cannot be the basis for legitimacy (potlatch.typepad.com/weblog/2009/10/what-is-the-postbureaucratic-state.html).
While these concerns are understandable, Will Davies in this post does a disservice to the government 2.0 debate. He is actually talking about ‘non-government 2.0’ and sets up a straw-man-opponent in which hardly anyone could possibly believe, then demonstrates convincingly how to knock this opponent over. Most of those involved in the government 2.0 debate want much richer interactions between citizens, service users, professionals, managers and politicians. Few want the views of citizens and service users to trump the views of the others. They just want those views to have much greater weight in the future - not a lot to ask, given how little weight they have had up to now.
A long way down the line, we are going to have to face up to the issues which Will Davies raises here, deciding where the proper balance lies between expertise and 'perspective' (better characterised as 'formally-validated expertise' and 'experience-based experience'). And we will certainly wish to ensure that BOTH play major roles in decision making on public services and issues. But it is wholly implausible for Will Davies to suggest that we are now reaching the point where 'expertise' is being swamped, so that the legitimacy of current governmental decision making structures and systems is threatened by ill-informed, non-expert 'opinion'-peddlars.