Building the economic-public relationship: learning from science communication and science studies.



There is a gap between the discipline of economics and the public it is supposedly about and for. This gap is reminiscent of the divide that led to movements for the public understanding of and public engagement with the natural sciences. It is a gap in knowledge, trust, and opinions, but most of all it is a gap in engagement. In this paper we ask: What do we need to think about ― and what do we need to do ― in order to bring economics and its public into closer dialogue? At stake is engaged, critical democracy. We turn to the fields of public understanding of science and science studies for our approach, finding three themes of particular relevance: understanding, expertise, and audience. We then discuss participatory budgeting (PB) as an example of fertile ground for engagement. We argue that with an economic-engagement focus, activities such as PB could be extended into the public-economics gap and provide avenues for an economic equivalent of participatory science: a form of participatory economics.