Global Governance Centre
14 May 2021

Ethics as a tool of value denial in the EU’s governance of scientific and technological innovation

‘Ethics’ expertise can be mobilized to deny the political and the value-based in debates on scientific and technological innovation.

This is what Prof. Littoz-Monnet argues in her recently published chapter "Ethics as a tool of value denial in the EU’s governance of scientific and technological innovation"

The chapter examines how mobilising ethics experts in policymaking can depoliticise problems. It does so, first, by maintaining the appearance of the technical character of policy proposals. Expert ethicists indeed claim to resort to objective knowledge and universal tools of analysis. Making ethics the realm of expertise has thus, rationalised discussions normally framed in value-based terms. Second, mobilising ethics expertise can help pre-empt the politicization of problems by insulating policy-making. Because consulting ethics experts allows policymakers to not open up bioethics deliberation to the broader public or alternative (expert) voices (while claiming to be doing just this), the mobilisation of bioethics expertise acts as a particularly effective mechanism of policy insulation.

Mobilising ethics experts thus works to the effect of pre-empting or taming value-based conflicts on scientific and technological developments.

This chapter appears in the book Value Politics in the European Union which explores the polysemic roles and uses of values in politics. The research is also part of Prof. Littoz-Monnet's project Explaining International Organisations' Mission Creep.


Annabelle Littoz-Monnet is Professor of International Relations and Political Science and Director of the Global Governance Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. She is the Project Lead for the Swiss National Science Foundation funded Explaining International Organisations' Mission Creep project.


Read the full chapter 

Image par Geralt de Pixabay