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Governing through Expertise: The Politics of Bioethics, Annabelle Littoz-Monnet

Reviewed by Benjamin Gregg

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Can politics ever be ethical? Can ethics ever be nonpolitical? Perhaps if ethical entrepreneurs can bring their principled analysis and conclusions to bear in public policy, politics can be ethical. Alternatively, if politics—in pursuit of power, influence, and effect—inevitably colonizes ethical thinking, distorting its normative potential by subverting its moral integrity, then ethics can never be nonpolitical. Annabelle Littoz-Monnet wants to argue the former but ends up implying the latter. She so persuasively explores the ways in which policymakers systematically co-opt professional ethicists that her evidence all but overwhelms her slender counterargument for the possibility of ethical policymaking.

Governing through Expertise: The Politics of Bioethics shows how European Commission (EC) bureaucrats consistently frame public policies in three fields of cutting-edge technology. Bureaucrats frame them as pro-innovation (so regulation is discouraged) and market-friendly (hence corporate profits and political power come before public welfare). The first field is human embryonic stem cells. By ensuring that ethics experts do not diverge from their agenda, EC bureaucrats circumvent polarized policy conflicts over the relevant science and technology to achieve approval for research funding. Here we have “knowledge” production thr

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