Only on Eduzaurus

Capitalizing on Uncertain Futures

Download essay
Need help with writing assignment?
writers online
to help you with essay
Download PDF

More provocative still is the example of AON, a global insurer, reinsurer, and broker in terrorism risk insurance, which annually publishes a ‘Global Terrorism Risk Map’ that ranks the threat of terrorism in relation to foreign investment potential. Under the label of terrorist risks, the map includes widely diverging issues such as narcotics trade, separatist movements, Marxist-inspired violence, religious extremism, and extreme right-wing violence (AON 2013). Both risk registries and AON’s Global Terrorism Risk Maps connote specific apparatuses of capture that shape the way state and financial actors imagine their domain of intervention and management. As Benedict Anderson (2006 [1983]) made clear, within a colonial context the map works in an intimate relationship with the institution of the census such that the goal is to totalize classification for the sake of efficient bureaucratic command. In this sense, such maps are models for, rather than models of, what they purport to represent.

These maps anticipate spatial reality.Instructive in these examples is Virilio’s thesis, taken up by Deleuze & Guattari (ATP: 285-7), that the political power of the state resides in the policing of speeds and absolute movements. Specifically, precautionary risk can be considered along the lines of a state war machine of the imperial type, whereby a rigid biunivocal molar segmentation of social space is effectuated through the overcoding of the politics of difference with a totalizing optic of risk (i.e. those deemed to be at risk and those able to productively bear risk) (see ATP: 210). In this way, precautionary risk provides the State with an abstract machine of overcoding capable of striating the space over which it reigns, regulating improper circulation by relativizing movements of subjects-cum-risk values. Consequently, a calculus of risk effectuates a totalitarian state apparatus whereby the latter does it’s upmost to seal off all possible lines of flight (ATP: 230).

Essay due? We'll write it for you!

Any subject

Min. 3-hour delivery

Pay if satisfied

Get your price

However this remains a rather superficial account. As Deleuze & Guattari (ATP: 387) insist, “[T]he State does not just relativize movement, it reimparts absolute movement. It does not just go from the smooth to the striated, it reconstitutes smooth space.” It remains to be seen in what sense the US national security apparatus reconstitutes smooth space. Such an account requires moving beyond the precautionary risk paradigm, which ultimately remains limited to a narrow reading of preemption that: 1) upholds state governance as the locus of securitization; and 2) ignores the intersections between national security and financial securitization, intersections that become more readily evident when preemption is read according to the principle of counter-proliferation (vs. the precautionary principle). Whereas the precautionary principle requires that we speculate possible catastrophic scenarios resulting from pursuing a current course of action and then cut back on said action as a way to defer harmful fall-out (e.g. the Kyoto Accord), counter-proliferation requires us to not halt speculative forms of action on the mere suspicion of their incalculable effects, but to mobilize innovation in order to pre-empt its potential fall-out (e.g. the pre-emptive military strike) (see Cooper 2008: 83-85).

This is a key distinction that most scholars addressing pre-emption as an axiomatic political or financial rationality too often fail to make. It is in the sense of counter-proliferation that I argue for an operational resonance between military pre-emption and financial speculation in the US national security apparatus. As George W. Bush insisted in what has become known as his ‘pre-emption speech’, at West Point, NY, in 2002, “[I]f we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.” The US had to eliminate those threats “before they emerged”. At War With the Future: Mapping the frontier of national securityEvocative of the ‘Promethean gap’ that Jean-Pierre Dupuy (2004) once identified as an ethical-political consequence of the H-bomb- namely that, beyond certain limits, our power to act infinitely exceeds our power to feel and imagine- the US 9/11 Commission Report reproached national intelligence agencies for their failure to imagine the future- particularly the catastrophic future- and proposed they ‘find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing the exercise of imagination’ (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States 2004: 344). In the same year, the Department of Defense insisted that “those responsible for defense transformation must anticipate the future and wherever possible help to create it” (Office of Force Transformation 2004: 2 [emphasis mine]). Herein the post-9/11 national security imperative was made clear: to systematically mobilize speculation as a means of enacting future catastrophes in order to pre-empt against them. These security imperatives inflect a specific tense of governance that operates according to the future-present-anterior of the catastrophic event, what Brian Massumi (in Clough & Willse 2011: 28) calls the ‘prototerritory of emergence’- the way that event is simulated before ‘its time’, conscripted as a site to command the means of its recognition and significance for the professed salvation of the nation. As Massumi (ibid: 21) has insisted, the modern US national security enterprise, conjointly constituted through a strategic but unstable neoliberal-neoconservative alliance, aims to make “war response as ubiquitously eruptible as the indiscriminate threats it seeks to counter”.

In the doctrine of pre-emption what defence policy seeks to mobilize against is not the singular enemy with the singular etiology (forgone with the dissolution of the Soviet Other), but the emergent future itself. As securitization is increasingly primed to the elusive future anterior of the next terrorist attack, what sorts of distinctions are still possible between the terrorist threat, the response to the material destructiveness of that threat’s actualization, and the pre-emption of that same threat by the US state-military-market apparatus? Building on Massumi’s (2011) characterization of the indiscriminable similitude binding pre-emption (i.e. counter-proliferation) and its target (i.e. the catastrophic threat) in the joint constitution of the ‘normality of a generalized crisis environment’, I argue that the blurring of these boundaries has serious implications for the way we conceive of catastrophe as an event: terrorism is no longer primarily a punctual destructive event but is rendered in its endless iterative simulation- in civil defense exercises, media discourses, risk forecasting methodologies, global terrorism risk maps, etc.- as an eventualization, a looming potentialization that is simultaneously fated and deferred. Eventualization captures the way the catastrophic threat is configured as perpetually emerging, becoming-hurricane, becoming-market crash, becoming-terrorist, always indiscriminably becoming. As Maurice Blanchot (1980: 3) has insisted, “that there neither is, nor is not disaster, is the disaster.” In this sense, the catastrophe is penultimate, according to Deleuze & Guattari’s (1987: 431-33) distinction between the limit and the threshold- it is ever always approaching the apocalyptic limit, never upon us because always upon us.

Therefore, the threat-form of catastrophe resides not necessarily in the indiscriminate nature of its destructiveness, but in the fact that it is so ubiquitously indiscriminable. Its nature is neither natural nor cultural; it precedes, ontologically, such categories. This is what Massumi (ibid: 24) has called the ‘singular-generic of threat’, “the unstable holding together of divergent possible ascriptions as to the form and identity of the threat in an inclusive conjunction”, hence the minimal deictic ‘catastrophe risk’ to designate a whole range of qualitatively different kinds of threats spanning the polar extremes of war and weather. From Governing Risks to Capitalizing Uncertainty: Annexing the future as property rightBy configuring the next catastrophe as an eventualization, counter-proliferation primes the future-anterior as a space for preemptive capture; financial speculation and military preemption reterritorialize the emergent future into a frontier, one that inflects the imperial legacy specific to American empire, manifest destiny, with the capitalist axioms of property and profit. Thus whereas the precautionary principle configures pre-emption along the lines of the machinic processes of anticipation-prevention, which Deleuze & Guattari (ATP 437-9) argue characterize the social formation particular to primitive societies (which are incessantly warding off the State-form that co-exists with them in an extrinsic manner), as counter-proliferation, pre-emption designates the intrinsic co-existence of anticipation-prevention with the financial apparatus of capture particular to the post-9/11 American capitalist state-form. Nowhere is this intrinsic co-existence of machinic processes more evident than in the incorporation of financial securitization into the purview of US national security after 9/11. Telling in this regard is RAND’s 2008 national security policy paper, Marrying Prevention and Resiliency: Balancing Approaches to an Uncertain Terrorist Threat, drafted in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).


This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers. You can order our professional work here.

We use cookies to offer you the best experience. By continuing, we’ll assume you agree with our Cookies policy.

Want to get a custom essay from scratch?

Do not miss your deadline waiting for inspiration!

Our writers will handle essay of any difficulty in no time.