The Politics of Mistrust: Estimating American Oil and Gas Resources

Wildavsky, Aaron and Ellen Tenebaum. The Politics of Mistrust: Estimating Oil and Gas Reserves. Beverly Hills: SAGE, 1981.

Wildavsky and Tenebaum have compiled an interesting and, at time, insightful analysis of the relation between estimates of oil and gas reserves and the formulation of American energy policy. The resultant book has much to recommend it. The Politics of Mistrust is the first major social scientific analysis of an important subject: the ramifications of the inherent uncertainty that characterizes natural resource estimation. Theoretically, the book provides an important contribution to the analysis of policy controversies by transferring insights form the social study of science to a new context. In particular, the book draws heavily on Kuhn (1962) and others who have demonstrated  the linkage between theory and observation in science to argue that an individual’s interpretation of the accuracy of a resource estimate is largely determined by his ideological beliefs.

– From a review in 4S Review, Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer 1983.