The Quest for Controlled Freedom

The continuous quest for a dynamic equilibrium in the tension between total control and full freedom as the essence of discretion

Datum en tijd:
11 oktober 2019 09:30 - 18:00 uur

Plenary meeting room Dutch Senate

(Eerste Kamer)

Binnenhof 22

2513 AA The Hague

With an eye on the common good, public actors may pursue particular goals. When such a goal has been formulated and decided upon, it is up to the discretion of others to implement that goal. The assumption is that the exercise of discretion is instrumentally aimed at the realization of the goal concerned. To underline the latter, control is needed. Eventually, discretion will be curbed. This is a usual and actually normative view on discretion. In an alternative, empirical, perspective, discretion concerns room to judge and act in skilful and ingenious manners, addressing the situation at hand. Rather than direct supervision, trust in craftsmanship and peer consultation then imply more ‘horizontal’ forms of control.

While total control and full freedom both seem illusions, the continuous quest for a dynamic equilibrium in the tension between the two forms the essence of discretion. When the pursuit of public goals is concerned, while full freedom, as well as total control, seem illusory, what are the meta-conditions in the public sphere for appropriate action, in terms of accountable ways of dealing with freedom when acting towards such goals?

Exploring these conditions is the aim of this conference. The topic is inspired by a new book, titled Discretion and the Quest for Controlled Freedom, edited by Tony Evans and Peter Hupe (forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan).

With the theme Discretion and Accountability, the point of departure is a juridical one. Keith Hawkins, Professor Emeritus of Law and Society, Oriel College, University of Oxford, will address this theme.

With the theme Crafting Freedom, society at large comes into play. Catherine Needham, Professor of Public Policy and Public Management, Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham will address this theme.

The theme Control through Hierarchy and Beyond concerns the ways in which citizens and organizations organize themselves, expressing in fact alternative forms of control - although maybe labelled differently. Herman van Gunsteren, Professor Emeritus of Political Theories and Philosophy of Law, Leiden University, will address this theme.

Cost: free (registration obligatory)
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