Epistemic Communities

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An epistemic community may consist of those who accept one version of a story, or one version of validating a story. Michel Foucault referred more elaborately to mathesis as a rigorous episteme suitable for enabling cohesion of a discourse and thus uniting a community of its followers. In philosophy of science and systems science the process of forming a self-maintaining epistemic community is sometimes called a mindset. In politics, a tendency or faction is usually described in very similar terms.

In international anthropology and studies of global governance, epistemic communities are transnational networks of knowledge-based experts who define for decision-makers what the problems they face are, and what they should do about them.

Most researchers[citation needed] carefully distinguish between epistemic forms of community and "real" or "bodily" community which consists of people sharing risk, especially bodily risk.

As this view suggests, it is also difficult to draw the line between these modern ideas and more ancient ones: Joseph Campbell's concept of myth from cultural anthropology, Carl Jung's concept of archetype in psychology. Some consider forming an epistemic community a deep human need, and ultimately a mythical or even religious obligation. Among these very notably are E. O. Wilson and Ellen Dissanayake, an American historian of aesthetics, who famously argued that almost all of our broadly shared conceptual metaphors centre on one basic idea of safety, that of "home".

From this view, an epistemic community may be seen as a group of people who do not have any specific history together, but search for a common idea of home, e.g. as if forming an intentional community. For example, an epistemic community could be discerned in a network of professionals from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds.[1]

As described by Haas (1992: 3), these diverse people have

(1) a shared set of normative and principled beliefs, which provide a value-based rationale for the social action of community members; (2) shared causal beliefs, which are derived from their analysis of practices leading or contributing to a central set of problems in their domain and which then serve as the basis for elucidating the multiple linkages between posible policy actions and desired outcomes; (3) shared notions of validity — that is, intersubjective, internally defined criteria for weighing and validating knowledge in the domain of their expertise; and (4) a common policy enterprise -- that is, a set of common practices associated with a set of problems to which their professional competence is directed, presumably out of the conviction that human welfare will be enhanced as a consequence.

Seen as member of an epistemic community, however experts' views emerge as the product of a combination of shared believes and more subtle conformity pressures, rather than a desperate drive for concurrence (Michael J Mazarr)

In international relations and political science, an epistemic community can also be referred to as a global network of knowledge-based professionals in scientific and technological areas that often have an impact on policy decisions.