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The European Commission’s Use of Research in Immigration Policy: Expert Knowledge as a Source of Legitimation?

Boswell, Christina. (2007) The European Commission’s Use of Research in Immigration Policy: Expert Knowledge as a Source of Legitimation? In: UNSPECIFIED, Montreal, Canada. (Unpublished)

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    Abstract

    [From the introduction]. Bureaucratic organisations are dependent on expert knowledge in a variety of ways. On the traditional Weberian account, bureaucracies are characterised by the rationality of their structures and action (Weber 1948: 220), implying a concern to ensure decisions are based on sound reasoning and empirical knowledge. Expert knowledge is thus valued in an instrumental sense, as a means of maximising the effective delivery of the organisation’s mandate and policy goals. But the Weberian account also implies a second, more symbolic function of expert knowledge: the use of knowledge as a means of legitimising particular decisions, and/or legitimising bureaucratic domination per se. In this second sense, knowledge utilisation could be seen as akin to Weber’s concept of “legal authority” (ibid.: 79). It bestows legitimacy by demonstrating the organisation’s conformity to certain rational rules (in this case logical reasoning and empirical knowledge), which can help substantiate decisions, or legitimise the authority of decision-makers.2 So in the first case, knowledge is valued for its instrumental, or problem-solving role; in the second, it is valued more symbolically, either (a) as an indicator of the validity of decisions, and/or (b) as an indicator of the soundness of the organisations making decisions. I term these two symbolic functions, respectively, the “substantiating” and “legitimising” functions of knowledge. Literature on knowledge utilisation has in some cases acknowledged the existence of these symbolic functions of knowledge (see, for example, Weiss 1986; Knorr, 1978; Sabatier 1978). However, it has failed to develop a theory to underpin these insights, or to explore them through more systematic empirical enquiry. In the first part of this paper, I sketch the contours of a theory of the different functions of expert knowledge in (bureaucratic) policy-making. I set out a number of conditions under which one could expect organisations to draw on expert knowledge to perform these three functions: instrumental, legitimising and substantiating. The conditions relate for the most part to features of organisations and their political environments, and characteristics of the policy areas in which they are operating. In the second section, I go on to explore how this theory applies to the case of knowledge utilisation within the European Commission, especially in the area of Immigration and Asylum. The European Commission is an interesting case, representing in many ways an extreme case of symbolic knowledge utilisation. I consider how far the Commission’s role and activities in this policy area approximate to the various characteristics set out above, and what this implies about the Commission’s rationale for drawing on expert knowledge. In the third and final part of the paper, I see if these expectations about knowledge utilisation are substantiated, taking the case of the European Migration Network, a body set up by DG Justice, Liberty and Security in 2003 to gather and analyse data and research on immigration and asylum. Not surprisingly, I find that the EMN has played a largely symbolic function, seen as a means of legitimising DG JLS’s role in this policy area, and substantiating its policy preferences. However, the findings also suggest the need to nuance parts of the theory developed in the first part of the paper. In particular, it shows that knowledge can play divergent functions for different parts of the organisation, and that these functions can also change over time.

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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Uncontrolled Keywords: Expert knowledge; European Migration Network (EMN).
    Subjects for non-EU documents: Other > integration theory (see also researching and writing the EU in this section)
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > Third Pillar/JHA/PJC > immigration policy
    EU policies and themes > EU institutions & developments > European Commission
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2007 (10th), May 17-19, 2007
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2008
    Page Range: p. 24
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:49
    URI: http://aei.pitt.edu/id/eprint/7709

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