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Сoronavirus Pandemic and Expert Knowledge Crisis: Reload of Miracle, Mystery and Authority

Сoronavirus Pandemic and Expert Knowledge Crisis: Reload of Miracle, Mystery and Authority

Journal of Institutional Studies, , Vol. 14 (no. 2),

The article analyzes the reasons for the important effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has become the catalyst for long-overdue decline in the authority of expert knowledge. The author claims that widespread access to information and scientific data results in the collapse of universal and monopolistic expert-scientific hierarchies of knowledge of a large society, controlled by the state. Scientific experts, who acted as the historical heirs of priests and shamans, have lost their privileged access to sacred knowledge, made public by the media and the Internet. This resulted in severe damage to the key function of expertise – legitimization of the political order and power elites. Experts without the status of agents of the state have become indistinguishable from ordinary citizens. The example of discussions between Waxers and Anti-Waxers shows that both sides are able to put forward convincing scientific arguments that rhetorically do not allow the authorities to bring the discussion about the effectiveness of vaccinations down to a completely unobvious dispute between enlightened state experts and uneducated obscurantists. It is in the most developed Western states where one can see a strong civil dissident movement that distrusts or calls into question the disciplinary regimes of collective coexistence, legitimized by the paternalistic rhetoric of concern from political elites. Accordingly, the elites in the background situation of strengthening the practices of heterarchy, post-truth and postmodernism can no longer rely on the usual metanarratives of the Enlightenment, which allowed them to monopolize the discourse of science in the name of progress and unconditional good, building hierarchies of knowledge-power convenient for their priorities. Since science, knowledge and information have long became public domain, the line between elites, experts and citizens in the field of access to science has become almost indistinguishable. The actual political problem is that the situation of collision of different paradigms, opinions and data is exactly the normal state of science, which is now transferred to the field of public discussions following the final secularization of science. Thus, the institution of expert knowledge turns into an unnecessary link in a situation of equal access of all interested parties to scientific data; to an institution that hardly would efficiently perform the functions of scientific legitimation of socially significant decisions in the foreseeable future.

Keywords: COVID-19; coronavirus; pandemic; expertise; expert knowledge; post-truth; postmodern; authority; legitimation; paternalism

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