The role of knowledge

Since power remains an important analytical concept in regime theories that emphasize shared norms, there is a need to analyze its nature.49 There has, for example, been an increasing emphasis on cognitive factors and learning - how actor interests change in response to new knowledge.50 This development is by no means isolated to regime theory but can be described as part of a more general trend in international relations to widen the concept of power. Power can then influence the ideas of others as well as the connection between knowledge and economic power in an increasingly information-based society.51 An example of this emphasis on knowledge in international relations theory is the study of epistemic communities and their role in shaping environmental policy. These are networks of knowledge-based experts that have helped states identify their interests by articulating cause-effect relationships of complex problems.52 However, the epistemic community approach has been extensively criticized because it obscures the process by which scientific knowledge is produced and framed as well as the power relations in this process.53

In addition to this critique, I emphasize that the epistemic community approach black-boxes the role of regimes in bringing together expertise around an issue and providing a science-policy nexus that members of the scientific community may not otherwise have. An example is how shared beliefs or norms are important to stabilizing coalitions of actors and for creating processes by which actors are influenced.54 It is thus important to view a knowledge-regime nexus as a two-way street. In a similar vein, some scholars have pointed to how long-term iterative assessment and management structures are important for bringing scientific knowledge to decision makers.55 In these cases regimes provide structures for the science-policy interface that can enhance the power of certain coalitions of actors. Moreover, in a summary of several case studies, Young has pointed out how institutions can frame research agendas by channeling resources to specific research areas, privileging certain types of knowledge claims and guiding the application of knowledge to specific policy concerns.56 In general, however,

49 Young, "Regime Dynamics: the Rise and Fall of International Regimes," 109-110.

50 Ernst B. Haas, "Words Can Hurt You," in International Regimes, ed. Stephen D. Krasner, 23-59 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1986), 57.

51 Susan Strange, States and Markets (London and New York: Pinter, 1994), chapter 6; Summaries of Susan Strange's thinking on the role of knowledge in Thomas C. Lawton, James N. Rosenau, and Amy C. Verdun, "Looking Beyond the Confines," in Strange Power, eds. Thomas C. Lawton, James N. Rosenau, and Amy C. Verdun, 3-18 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000) 3, 8.; Lynn K. Mytelka, "Knowledge and Structural Power in the International Political Economy," in Strange Power, eds. Thomas C. Lawton, James N. Rosenau, and Amy C. Verdun, 39-56 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 39.

52 peter M. Haas, "introduction: Epistemic communities and international policy coordination," International Organization 46, no. 1 (1992): 1.

53 E.g. Jasanoff and Wynne, "Science and Decision Making," 50-53; Karin Bäckstrand, What Can Nature Withstand? Science, Politics and Discourses in Transboundary Air Pollution Diplomacy, Diss. (Lund: Department of Political Science, Lund University, 2001), 256-257.

54 William C. Clark, Jill Jäger, and Josee van Eijndhoven, "Managing Global Environmental Change: An Introduction to the Volume," in Learning to Manage Global Environmental Risk. Vol. 1, ed. The Social Learning Group, 3-19 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), 12-15.

55 David W. Cash and Susanne C. Moser, "Linking Global and Local Scales: Designing Dynamic Assessment and Management Processes," Global Environmental Change 10, (2000): 109.

56 Young, "Institutions and the Growth of Knowledge."

regime theory has paid limited attention to the social construction of knowledge and scientific understanding. In the next section I will therefore turn to a school of thought that specifically addresses the social construction of knowledge.

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