Review: The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it MattersThe Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Thomas M. Nichols
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was both entertaining and enlightening, and touches on a phenomenon that is increasingly present in contemporary public discourse, that is, the denial of the expertise that is inherent to some people whose education and experience permits them to be able make pronouncements within their area of expertise with a certain degree of certainty and security.

Drawing examples from a number of fields – education, journalism, politics, the Internet, etc – Nichols makes his argument well while all the time inducing a certain degree of humour from his readers…or at least from this particular reader. I found his argument entirely persuasive, resonating with experiences that I myself have had (in my very narrow specialisation) from those who, for any number of reasons, wish to expound that their opinion, regardless of how well or otherwise it is formed, should be held in the same esteem as a considered position I have struggled to come to through research, reflection, conversations with peers, and constant refinement.

The death of expertise is something that Nichols argues is ultimately destructive of society and the societal institutions that underpin the way humanity lives with and within itself. The exultation of feeling and opinion to the level of knowledge and insight is something to be resisted and, where necessary, fought against because without experts to provide the kind of specialised knowledge that only experts can provide, society lurches from one reactive action to another.

I highly recommend this book for all those who are experts in their particular field of endeavour, regardless of what that might be. I’d also like to recommend it all of society…but I doubt my recommendation will be taken up.

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