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The Max Weber Conference 2016: Democracy and Expertise

Thursday, March 31, 2016 – Friday, April 1, 2016

Deutsches Haus at NYU

Deutsches Haus at NYU and the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies present the 2016 Max Weber Conference.

The idea of this conference is to discuss the tension between democracy and expertise, which Robert C. Post will address in his keynote speech. We are living in a globalizing world in which knowledge, science, and technology are constantly changing at a high speed, and in which the information about this knowledge is diffused worldwide at an equally high speed. Societies need this knowledge and rely on expertise in order to flourish and be able to solve vexing problems such as the international financial crisis, the Eurozone crisis, and climate change. Thus, competent democratic governance is not possible without the knowledge of experts.

However, while democracy is built on the equality of political rights, meaning each citizen has the equal right to participate in public discourse to influence democratic decision-making, expertise is not available to each citizen in the same way.  Knowledge is built upon specific institutions like universities that train experts and advance knowledge according to specific rules. Hence the question arises of how we can deal with this inherent tension between democracy and expertise. Are science and technology not only a “productive force” enhancing the living conditions of the people but also becoming a “background ideology” that is legitimating political power by avoiding public discourse as Jürgen Habermas claimed in his text of 1968 on “Technology and Science as ‘Ideology’”? How is it possible to combine the insights of experts with a lively public discourse about the norms guiding the utilization of science and technology in order to practice democratic governance that is legitimate and competent at the same time? Legal scholars, political scientists and economists as well as practitioners who have experience with the role of experts in national and European governance will explore these questions at the Max Weber Conference 2016.


Thursday, March 31

6:00-7:30 p.m.
Keynote Speech: “Democracy, Expertise, and Academic Freedom”
Robert C. Post, Yale Law School

Friday, April 1
10:00–11:30 a.m.

Session I: Democratic Governance and Expertise
Chair: Christine Landfried, NYU
Renée Haferkamp, Former Director General of the European Commission
Mario Monti, Bocconi University; Former Prime Minister of Italy and former European Commissioner for the Single Market and for Competition
Ezra Suleiman, Princeton University

2:00–3:30 p.m.
Session II: Expertise in Financial and Economic Policies
Chair: Georgette Lalis, Senior Jean Monnet Fellow at NYU Law
Irene Finel-Honigman, Columbia University
Sylvie Goulard, College of Europe in Bruges; Member of the European Parliament
Katharina Pistor, Columbia University

4:00–5:30 p.m.
Session III: Democracy, Expertise and Public Opinion
Chair: Gráinne de Búrca, Jean Monnet Center at NYU Law
Georgios Katrougalos, Minister of Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity of Greece
David Kennedy, Harvard Law School
Irene Neverla, Hamburg University
Richard Sennett, NYU and London School of Economics

Events at Deutsches Haus are free and open to the public. If you would like to attend this event, please send an email to As space at Deutsches Haus is limited, please arrive ten minutes prior to the event to ensure you get a good seat. Thank you!

The Max Weber Conference 2016 is a DAAD-sponsored event.