‘Gatedness’ and risk society – Dupuis and Thorns


In their analysis of gated communities (using New Zealand gated communities as a case study), Ann Dupuis & David Thorns suggest we “…push the concept of gatedness beyond a type of physical location into a more general social process.” (p.149) They suggest “gating can be interpreted as a manifestation of a particular type of mentality that arises from a set of deeply felt concerns about the nature of late modern [-p.150] society.” (pp.149-150)

“Contemporary gated communities have been described as the newest form of fortified community (Blakely & Snyder, 1995, p. 2). Such communities, where security and protection are major features, can be found in different forms across the world. These include security villages and neighbourhood enclosures in South Africa (Jurgens & Landman, 2006), common interest developments in the USA (McKenzie, 2006), gated developments in post-Communist China (Giroir, 2006; Webster et al., 2006), private guarded neighbourhoods in the Middle East (Glasze, 2006) and enclaves for transnational elites in diverse countries (Webster et al., 2002).” (p.145)

“In this article we argue that gated communities can be viewed as one form of global urban response to deep-seated concerns people face in the contemporary world, where change has been rapid and previous modes of living have been disrupted. Change, at the level of personal lives, within communities, urban areas and at the national level is evident in, for example, increased mobility, large-scale migration, population diversity, workplace changes and increased anxiety over personal safety arising from increased risk of terrorist attacks. Such widespread change has created conditions where the quest for safety and security has become more central to everyday living (Tulloch & Lupton, 2003).

To encompass these broader currents of change we suggest moving from the specificity of gated communities to consider a broader concept of ‘gatedness’. We describe gatedness as a psychological response which results in and leads to a range of ‘forting up’ behaviours that appear to share similar characteristics. To explain this transition we draw on the risk society literature as the starting point for our argument. Within this literature the problems cited as features of contemporary society are linked to an increased level of risk and flowing from this a heightened sense of anxiety and a general decline of trust. These features result in the weakening of the role and institutions of the state,with an attendant emphasis on the importance of markets and individual communities, not as gated communities per se, but rather as an empirical phenomenon which can be analysed through the risk literature. The connection is then made between risk consciousness, the development of widely held anxieties and the decline in trust evident in recent decades. Finally, the analysis explores the idea of the ‘mentality of gatedness’ and the link between this condition and the growth in forting up practices in everyday life which are responses to increased levels of anxiety and risk.” (p.147)

A limitation of the current explanations for the rise of gated communities is that they do not link this rise to broader societal concerns. While there has been much debate in the literature about the value of gated communities, the tendency has been to explore issues within the framework of urban planning debates or political control and governance issues and the privatisation of public space. However, Foldvary (1994) has attempted to extend the debate and draw the connection between gated communities and a neo-liberal political agenda by arguing that gated communities exemplify urban efficiency allowing collectively consumed goods to be supplied in optimal quantities by the market. McKenzie (2003) adds further to this debate by being critical of gated communities precisely because they reflect neo-liberal views on privatism and the role of the state. / In our view the connection between the ascendancy of neo-liberal politics and the growth of gated communities is relevant to our consideration of the development of gated communities in New Zealand.” (p.148)

Describing the concept of ‘The Risk Society’ Dupuis and Thorns write:
“Possibly the most influential theorist in the sociological literature on risk has been Ulrich Beck. His book Risk Society (Beck, 1992a) set the parameters of the debate around the nature of risk in contemporary Western societies. This text was followed up in 1995 by Ecological Politics in the Age of Risk and in 1999 by World Risk Society and by a number of journal articles and book chapters (Beck, 1992b, 1996a, b) and by two important texts with collaborators (Beck et al., 1994; Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 1995).
Beck’s general thesis is that risk is the key feature which sets apart the current period, which he terms ‘reflexive modernity’, from earlier ‘simple modernity’ (or industrial society). It is therefore risk that has been the basis for the fundamental changes that have occurred since the 1970s (Lash & Wynne, 1992, p. 3). Beck is not arguing that risk is new. There have always been risks; what has changed however is the nature of risk in reflexive modernity. For example, worker exploitation leading to unemployment and workplace accidents is a typical risk of modernity, whereas the risks of late modernity take the form of ‘manufactured uncertainties’, emanating largely from two sources: high-tech risks and ecologically based risks (Beck, 1999). An example of the former is computer viruses with the potential to disrupt every facet of the infrastructure of entire cities or even countries, while examples of the latter are genetic engineering, and the contamination of food crops and global warming. Many risks connect both technology and ecology. The key difference Beck notes is that in modernity wealth and ‘goods’ were produced, but in late modernity the production of ‘goods’ is accompanied simultaneously with the production of ‘bads’, or risks. As a consequence Beck depicts late modernity as ‘a catastrophic society’ where catastrophes are brought about by the repeated crises of science and technology.

In contrast to previous eras, where risks to do with the environment such as floods or famines were understood to have their basis in nature and so were seen as problems external to human beings, contemporary risks are created by humans themselves. The “ecological, biomedical, social, military, political, economic, financial, symbolic and informational” (Van Loon, 2002, p. 1) risks of late modernity, while clearly impacting on nature, cannot be said to have their basis in nature. Rather, the source of risk is the “internal crisis of science- and technology-based industrial society, affecting both its production process and its core institutions” (Strydom, 2002, p. 55), the basis of which is the complexity of the social and technical systems in which risks are embedded. This complexity is such that on the one hand, the possibility of self-annihilation is very real, and on the other, there is no individual, group or governing apparatus that can take control and rein in the dangers or, for that matter, be accountable, or take ultimate responsibility for their production. The contradiction for Beck is one of ‘paradigm confusion’, where the new types of risks characteristic of late modernity are still being confronted with the inadequate approaches of modernity.” (p.150)

“Within the risk society literature much is made of the role of the media in disseminating risk awareness.” (p.150)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Ann Dupuis & David Thorns (2008): Gated Communities as Exemplars of ‘Forting Up’ Practices in a Risk Society, Urban Policy and Research, 26:2, 145-157

ABSTRACT This article challenges existing ways of thinking about the proliferation of gated communities. The catalyst for the article was the observation that gated communities have appeared recently in New Zealand where many of the extreme conditions that have driven their emergence in other places are much less obvious. This counterfactual encouraged an exploration of an alternative explanation for the prevalence of gated communities to those of lifestyle, elitism, fear of crime and protection of property values. In this endeavour the emphasis shifts from gated communities as physical and spatial objects to the idea of ‘gatedness’, a mental construct that characterises the nature of existence in a risk society. It is argued that the proliferation of gated communities is one example of individualised ‘forting up’ practices that have become increasingly common as the trust in public institutions to manage the perceived increase in risk has declined. What ensues at the level of everyday life is greater attention to home security and concerns with bodily safety and travel. The article points to the need for empirical work to explore further the extent to which the mentality of gatedness shapes current social practices.

Reference is to: Tulloch, J. & Lupton, D. (2003) Risk and Everyday Life (London: Sage).


stitching together of everyday life with the war on terror?


Thinking of violence as it relates to geography, this article by Louise Amoore caught my eye. Pointing to former senior American politicians who went into business in security (eg former under Secretary, Asa Hutchinson, who established the Hutchinson Group, a homeland security consulting company), Amoore writes:

There is, as William Connolly describes it, an emerging “resonance” between security activities: [‘]Airport surveillance, internet filters, passport tracking devices, legal detention without criminal charges, security internment camps, secret trials, “free speech zones”, DNA profiles, border walls and fences, erosion of the line between internal security and external military action—these security activities resonate together, engendering a national security machine that pushes numerous issues outside the range of legitimate dissent and mobilizes the populace to support new security and surveillance practices against underspecified enemies[‘] (Connolly 2005:54).

Neither a militarization of society, nor even a commercialization of security, then, what we are seeing is a stitching together of the mundane and prosaic calculations of business, the security decisions authorized by the state, and the mobilized vigilance of a fearful public. It is important to stress here that questioning the logic of militarization is not to underplay the acute violence inherent to this different kind of war. What I call here “algorithmic war” is one specific appearance of Foucault’s Clausewitzian inversion—the “continuation of war by other means”, its appeal to technology and expertise rendering the violent force of war somewhat ordinary and invisible (2003 [1976]:16). “The role of political power”, writes Foucault, “is perpetually to use a sort of silent war to reinscribe the relationship of force, and to reinscribe it in institutions, economic inequalities, language, and even the bodies of individuals” (16–17). Understood in this way, the political practices of homeland security—what Derek Gregory and Alan Pred call “expert solutions” (2007:1)—are actually sanctioning and reproducing the war-like relations of power seen in the overtly militarized spaces of Afghanistan and Iraq. They target individual bodies, designate communities as dangerous or risky, delineate safe zones from targeted locations, invoke the pre-emptive strike on the city streets.” (p.50)

Algorithmic security is war-like, then, not primarily because it brings military force into closer proximity with our daily commute or airport check-in queue (though of course it does do this), but because it functions through a war-like architecture. It deploys an “architecture of enmity”, a drawing of the lines between self/other; us/them; safe/risky; inside/outside, that makes going to war possible (Shapiro 1997). Though political geography has given critical attention to the performativity of the violent imagination of threat, this has most commonly focused on spaces where the presence of war is visceral and visible—where uniformed military personnel are present on the city streets (Katz 2007); when urban spaces are the targeted sites of war (Graham 2004); or in the tangible violences of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay (Minca 2005). In this paper, I explore the less visible spaces where the architecture of enmity is present in the form of algorithmic war.” (p.51)

According to Amoore, “Algorithmic war appears to make it possible for the imagination of an open global economy of mobile people, objects and monies, to be reconciled with the post-9/11 rendering of a securitized nation-state.” (p.51)

NB: Amoore explains: “Rules of association are produced by algorithms—models or “decision trees” for a calculation (Quinlan 1986). In effect, algorithms appear to make it possible to translate probable associations between people or objects into actionable security decisions. In 2003, for example, a US Joint Inquiry concluded that “on September 11, enough relevant data was resident in existing databases”, so that “had the dots been connected”, the events could have been “exposed and stopped” (2003:14). It is precisely this “connecting of dots” that is the work of the algorithm.” (p.51) [I couldn’t help thinking of Person Of Interest here!]

Person Of Interst LogoAmoore quotes US Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff: “[‘]If we learned anything from September 11 2001, it is that we need to be better at connecting the dots of terrorist-related information. After September 11, we used credit card and telephone records to identify those linked with the hijackers. But wouldn’t it be better to identify such connections before a hijacker boards a plane?[‘] Amoore then explains: “The algorithm appears to make possible the conversion of ex post facto evidence in the war on terror into a judgement made in advance of the event. The significant point here is that probabilistic knowledge, based on the databased residue of daily life, becomes a means of securitization.” (p.52)

What is novel in the contemporary moves to algorithmic war, then, is the specific form that the aligning of science, commerce, military and the state is taking.” (p.54)

“Surveillance cameras, equipped with facial and gait recognition technologies, track “atypical” movements such as repeated traversals of a platform (Hale 2005); “smart” travel payment cards store journey data and identify anomalies; and poster displays urge the public “if you suspect it, report it”. The calculations of the algorithm appear to translate the observation of uncertain and contingent human life into something with the credibility of scientific judgement.” (p.55) “The specific deployment of scientific knowledge, then, incorporates the affective domain, rendering fears and anxieties a means of anticipating the future.” (p.55)

“Citing international relations scholar Michael Shapiro, Derek Gregory argues that “geography is inextricably linked to the architecture of [-p.56] enmity”, to the overlapping practices through which “collectivities locate themselves in the world and thus how they practice the meanings of Self and Other that provide the conditions of possibility for regarding others as threats or antagonists” (2004:20). Yet, Gregory’s “spiraling networks” do not fully push the limits of Shapiro’s architecture because they return the geopolitics of violence to the disciplinary norms of battlefield spaces, obscuring the subtle differential violences of the “surveillance network” of the “end-of-violence organization” that Shapiro later depicts (2004:121). In the name of homeland security (the end of violence), algorithmic war reinscribes the imaginative geography of the deviant, atypical, abnormal “other” inside the spaces of daily life. The figure of enmity to be feared and intercepted need not only dwell in a represented outside in the geographies of Iraq or Afghanistan, for the outside can be inside—in the body of the migrant worker (differentially normal in the space of the economy and abnormal in the spaces of immigration), the young Muslim student (permitted to study but observed in the college’s Islamic society), the refugee (afforded the hospitality of the state but biometrically identified and risk-rated), the British Asian traveler (granted visa waiver but ascribed an automated risk score).” (pp.55-56)

“Here the architecture of enmity becomes the means of securitization itself, such that the distinction between “real” war (with accompanying visceral violence and bloodshed) and the war by other means (legitimated by securing against future violence) becomes permeable.” (p.56)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Louise Amoore (2009) AlgorithmicWar: Everyday Geographies of the War on Terror. Antipode Vol. 41 No. 1, pp.49-69

Abstract: Technologies that deploy algorithmic calculation are becoming ubiquitous to the homeland securitization of the war on terror. From the surveillance networks of the city subway to the biometric identifiers of new forms of border control, the possibility to identify “association rules” between people, places, objects and events has brought the logic of preemption into the most mundane and prosaic spaces. Yet, it is not the case that the turn to algorithmic calculation simply militarizes society, nor even that we are witnessing strictly a commercialization of security. Rather, algorithmic war is one form of Foucault’s sense of a “continuation of war by other means”, where the war-like architectures of self/other, here/there, safe/risky, normal/suspicious are played out in the politics of daily life. This paper explores the situated interplay of algorithmic practices across commercial, security, and military spheres, revealing the violent geographies that are concealed in the glossy techno-science of algorithmic calculation.” (p.49)

Reference is to: Gregory D (2004) The Colonial Present. Oxford: Blackwell

Gregory D and Pred A (eds) (2007) Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror and Political Violence. New York: Routledge

Shapiro M (1997) Violent Cartographies: Mapping Cultures of War. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
Shapiro M (2004) “The nation-state and violence”: Wim Wenders contra imperial sovereignty. In J Edkins, V Pin-Fat and M Shapiro (eds) Sovereign Lives: Power in Global Politics (pp 101–124). New York: Routledge

The two Coralines: different versions of childhood – Myers


Touching on a topic that rather interests me, Lindsay Myers considers the way that fear is addressed in Henry Selick’s stop-motion film Coraline (2009). She writes:

CoralineFears about the welfare and safety of children have long dominated adult conceptions of childhood. Binary oppositions between innocence and experience, autonomy and dependency lie at the heart of modern definitions of childhood and adulthood, and attempts to break free from these essentialist dichotomies have always been fraught with difficulty. The last fifty years have witnessed major advances in the recognition of children’s rights throughout the Western world, and it is now widely acknowledged that depriving the young of their civil liberties renders them more susceptible to violence, exploitation, and abuse. Adult fears for child safety and child risk have not, however, dissipated over the course of the last few decades but rather have mutated and developed in accordance with modern advances and scientific progress (Buckingham; Beck; Best; James and Prout; Jenkins; Palmer) and concerns about the perceived menace of pedophilia, child abuse, child pornography, and childhood criminality have led to a veritable escalation in moral panic and anxiety. Progressive policies to empower the young have almost always been accompanied by discourses of protectionism that seek to control and regulate children’s lives in the service of what is perceived to be their “best interests,” and for many the process of managing and limiting child risk has become a valuable commodity (Buckingham).
CoralineThe extent to which these two parallel trends (increased autonomy on the one hand and increased regulation on the other) have impacted upon cultural representations of childhood has yet to be fully exploredAnalysis of the modern “family film” can, however, afford particularly revealing insights into this process as it necessarily unites both adult and child audiences, mediating between adult perceptions of childhood and [-p.246] a child’s understanding of adults. In contrast to children’s literature, which is predominantly author-driven, the family film is entirely market-led, a phenomenon that makes it a far more transparent portrayer of the dominant social and cultural climate than is its literary counterpart.” (pp.245-246)

“What […] are we to make [-p.247] of Selick’s creation? Is A. O. Scott of the New York Times correct when he asserts that Selick, like Gaiman, is interested in childhood, “not as a condition of sentimentalized, passive innocence but rather as an active, seething state of receptivity in which consciousness itself is a site of wondrous, at times unbearable drama”?” (pp.246-247)

Coraline - the graphic novelHaving acknowledged Gaiman’s warm reception of the film adaptation, Myers’s own reading of the two versions leads her to write: “Close comparison of the film and the book reveals that while the film initially appears to convey the “feel” of the original, underneath it is a radically conservative appropriation of the original source. Far from challenging dominant stereotypes and conventions, as does Gaiman’s literary masterpiece, Selick’s Coraline presents a fundamentally unprogressive vision of childhood, trading off the novel’s underlying theme of child empowerment for adult fears about child welfare. It constructs the child not as an autonomous protagonist but as a passive cipher, and it plays more to adult anxieties about child abuse than it does to the genuine fears and concerns of the child.
Gaiman’s Coraline is, at its heart, “a spooky, cautionary tale that works by playing on very real childhood fears” (Coats 86). It is a profoundly moving account of how one girl faces up to her deepest fears and desires, and it is, as David Rudd has observed, “centrally concerned with how one negotiates ones place in the world” (160).” (p.247) [this notion of ‘very real’ childhood fears is an interesting one, BTW]

Coraline - illustrated by Chris RiddellBy creating a long-standing kidnapping framework in which to position Coraline’s abduction, Selick not only removes the focus from Coraline but he also effectively [-p.249] renders his heroine powerless, pitting her from the outset against a devious serial killer. His recasting of Gaiman’s novel as an abduction story essentially transforms the heroine’s journey of empowerment into a panic-ridden battle against the evil “out there,” playing far more strongly to contemporary adult fears about child safety and “stranger danger” than it does to the fears and desires of the young.” (pp.248-249)

It is not only the characters and the settings that have been altered significantly in the transposition from book to film. Gaiman’s Coraline and Selick’s Coraline are also on entirely different missions. Gaiman’s Coraline is searching for self-knowledge, self-control, and agency. At the beginning of her adventures she only knows what she is not (she is not Caroline) but by the end of the novel she has learned a great deal about herself and the world. She has faced her deepest fears and desires and she has learned that you shouldn’t always get everything you ever wanted, just like that, without it meaning anything. Selick’s Coraline, on the other hand, is not particularly interested in finding her identity. It is quite clear from the highly individual nature of her attire at the beginning of the film (blue hair, blue nails, and a funky yellow Macintosh) that she has already, at least to some degree, discovered her “alterity,” and that she has no qualms in expressing this alternative “self” publicly. All Selick’s Coraline wants to do is to get away from the predatory Other Mother, and the film is far more about depriving the Other Mother of her power than it is about empowering its young heroine.” (p.250)

CoralineGaiman’s Coraline develops her increased sense of awareness by employing a combination of strategies: reflecting on past experiences, assimilating and employing previously acquired knowledge, and articulating her feelings to others (namely to the cat). Each of these techniques is foregrounded by Gaiman in order to ensure that his reader is fully aware of the complex processes behind his heroine’s development. Coraline’s decision to go back to the alternate realm to rescue her parents is born not from a sense of duty or selfishness but from a memory that she has of when her father heroically saved her from a swarm of bees, her understanding of the nature of identity derives from her challenging conversations with the cat, and the clever trick that she uses to lure the Other Mother to the abandoned well is a reenactment of the strategy of “protective coloration” a form of camouflage employed by animals to ward off predators in the wild of which the young girl became aware while watching nature programs on television. Selick’s Coraline, by contrast, does not learn from her adventures. She has very little opportunity to reflect on the consequences of her actions, since nearly all of her most significant actions having been excised from the plot.” (p.250)

CoralineSelick’s film appears to suggest that childhood “innocence” and security can only be restored if the corrupt and fallen adult world is miraculously redeemed by the child (a trope that has recently become a common staple of many recent film adaptations of children’s classics). The figure of the child in this film comes to symbolize, as in so many nineteenth-century novels, both adult hope and adult guilt. Coraline’s task is not to find her place in the world but to save the adult world from inevitable degeneration, and it is her selfless generosity and goodness that are foregrounded rather than her self-reliance, agency, and autonomy (the qualities emphasized in the book).” (p.251)

“Although the book can be read either as an exciting adventure or as the story of a child in
trouble, the film undeniably prioritizes the latter. It does little to empower its child viewer, eliminating the child’s perspective almost entirely, perpetuating victim stereotypes and fetishizing childhood innocence.” (p.254)

“In contrast to Gaiman’s text, which teaches its heroine (and by extension its reader) that “perfect” parents are neither possible nor desirable, Selick’s film is highly critical of Coraline’s Real Parents. It goes so far as to suggest that Coraline’s vulnerability was the direct result [-p.255] of parental shortcomings, and it is especially critical of modern mothers who do not have time to tend to their children’s needs due to work commitments (Parsons, Sawers, and McInally).” (pp.254-255)

CoralineI found Myers’s analysis of the two Coralines interesting (and well-argued), but I do wonder at her definition of genres in this analysis, as in her definition of the family film in contrast with children’s literature (above, p.246), or when she writes:

“The reasons why Selick adapted Gaiman’s source text in such a radical manner surely lie in the very different cultural contexts in which the works [-p.252] are respectively positioned. Whereas Gaiman’s novel is a sophisticated literary work that consciously engages with a rich, textual heritage, Selick’s Coraline is a modern, audio-visual construct, a consumer-driven product whose success depends entirely upon its ability to tap into popular trends and desires.
coraline dollGaiman’s novel deploys, as many scholars have demonstrated, two main frames of reference—the literary fairy tale and the fantasy—both of which can be said to hold a particular affinity for the young. The split mother, the locked room, the deceptive lure, the magical talisman, and the fear of being eaten are all common fairy-tale tropes, while the eccentric cat and the magical wardrobe are indirect allusions to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, two iconic children’s fantasies, which Gaiman, himself, has admitted exerted a considerable influence over him as a child (Austin). The main influence on Selick’s Coraline, however, is the Hollywood horror film, a genre, which until recently, was the exclusive domain of adults.” (pp.251-252)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Lindsay Myers (2012) Whose Fear Is It Anyway?: Moral Panics and “Stranger Danger” in Henry Selick’s Coraline. The Lion and the Unicorn 36, 245–257

Terrorism shapes the nation


I really liked this article of Beck’s; to my mind, it offers theory for analysis of  representations of violence, threat, and villainy, as well as spy fiction, oh and several others. Beck explains:

‘Risk’ inherently contains the concept of control. Pre-modern dangers were attributed to nature, gods and demons. Risk is a modern concept. It presumes decision-making. As soon as we speak in terms of ‘risk’, we are talking about calculating the incalculable, colonizing the future. [-p.41] In this sense, calculating risks is part of the master narrative of first modernity. In Europe, this victorious march culminates in the development and organization of the welfare state, which bases its legitimacy on its capacity to protect its citizens against dangers of all sorts. But what happens in world risk society is that we enter a world of uncontrollable risk and we don’t even have a language to describe what we are facing. ‘Uncontrollable risk’ is a contradiction in terms. And yet it is the only apt description for the second-order, unnatural, human-made, manufactured uncertainties and hazards beyond boundaries we are confronted with.” (pp.40-41)

He continues:

“There is a dialectical relation between the unequal experience of being victimized by global risks and the transborder nature of the problems. But it is the transnational aspect, which makes cooperation indispensable to their solution, that truly gives them their global nature. The collapse of global financial markets or climatic change affect regions quite differently. But that doesn’t change the principle that everyone is affected, and everyone can potentially be affected in a much worse manner. Thus, in a way, these problems endow each country with a common global interest, which means that, to a certain extent, we can already talk about the basis of a global community of fate. Furthermore, it is also intellectually obvious that global problems only have global solutions, and demand global cooperation. So in that sense, we can say the principle of ‘globality’ (Albrow, 1996; Robertson, 1992), which is a growing consciousness of global interconnections, is gaining ground. But between the potential of global cooperation and its realization lie a host of risk conflicts. [/] Some of these conflicts arise precisely because of the uneven way in which global risks are experienced.” (p.42)

The quest for global solutions will in all probability lead to further global institutions and regulations. And it will no doubt achieve its aims through a host of conflicts. The long-term anticipations of unknown, transnational risks call transnational risk communities into existence. But in the [-p.43] whirlpool of their formation, as in the whirlpool of modernity, they will also transform local cultures into new forms, destroying many central institutions that currently exist. But transformation and destruction are two inescapable sides of the necessary political process of experimentation with new solutions.

Ecological threats are only one axis of global risk conflict. Another lies in the risks of globalized financial markets.” (pp.42-43)

Both ecological and financial risks incorporate several of the characteristics we have enumerated that make risks politically explosive. They go beyond rational calculation into the realm of unpredictable turbulence. Moreover, they embody the struggle over the distribution of ‘goods’ and ‘bads’, of positive and negative consequences of risky decisions. But above all, what they have in common is that their effects are deterritorialized. That is what makes them global risks. And that is what sets in motion the formation of global risk communities – and world risk society. But while they show similarities, there are also important differences between the various kinds of global risk that significantly influence the resultant conflict. One is that environmental and technological risks come from the ‘outside’. They have physical manifestations that then become socially relevant. Financial risks, on the other hand, originate in the heart of the social structure, in its central medium. This then leads to several other differences. Financial risks are more immediately apparent than ecological risks. A consciousness leap is not required to recognize them. By the same token, they are more individualized than ecological risks.” (p.43)

A further distinction can be made, however, between ecological and financial threats on the one hand, and the threat of global terrorist networks on the other. Ecological and financial conflicts fit the model of modernity’s [-p.44] self-endangerment. They both clearly result from the accumulation and distribution of ‘bads’ that are tied up with the production of goods. They result from society’s central decisions, but as unintentional side-effects of those decisions. Terrorist activity, on the other hand, is intentionally bad. It aims to produce the effects that the other crises produce unintentionally. Thus the principle of intention replaces the principle of accident, especially in the field of economics. Much of the literature on risk in economics treats risk as a positive element within investment decisions, and risk-taking as a dynamic aspect linked to the essence of markets. But investing in the face of risk presupposes trust. Trust, in turn, is about the binding of time and space, because trust implies committing to a person, group or institution over time.

“This prerequisite of active trust, in the field of economics as well as in everyday life and democracy, is dissolving. The perception of terrorist threats replaces active trust with active mistrust. It therefore undermines the trust in fellow citizens, foreigners and governments all over the world. Since the dissolution of trust multiplies risks, the terrorist threat triggers a self-multiplication of risks by the de-bounding of risk perceptions and fantasies.” (pp.43-44)

One of the consequences thereof is that the principle of private insurance is partly being replaced by the principle of state insurance. In other words, in the terrorist risk society the world of individual risk is being challenged by a world of systemic risk, which contradicts the logic of economic risk calculation. Simultaneously, this opens up new questions and potential conflicts, namely how to negotiate and distribute the costs of terrorist threats and catastrophes between businesses, insurance companies and states.
Therefore, it becomes crucial to distinguish clearly between, on the one hand, the conventional enemy image between conflicting states and, on the other, the ‘transnational terrorist enemy’, which consists of individuals or groups but not states. It is the very transnational and hybrid character of the latter representation that ultimately reinforces the hegemony of already powerful states.
The main question is: who defines the identity of a ‘transnational terrorist’? Neither judges, nor international courts, but powerful governments and states. They empower themselves by defining who is their terrorist enemy, their bin Laden. The fundamental distinctions between war and peace, attack and self-defence collapse. Terrorist enemy images are deterritorialized, de-nationalized and flexible state constructions that legitimize the global intervention of military powers as ‘self-defence’.” (p.44)

Bush’s alarmism has a paradoxical effect: it gives Islamic terrorists what they want most – a [-p.45] recognition of their power. Bush has encouraged the terrorists to believe that the United States really can be badly hurt by terrorist actions like these. So there is a hidden mutual enforcement between Bush’s empowerment and the empowerment of the terrorists.” (pp.44-45)

“The second big lesson of the terrorist attack is: national security is no longer national security. Alliances are nothing new, but the decisive difference about this global alliance is that its purpose is to preserve internal and not external security.” (p.46)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Ulrich Beck (2002) The Terrorist Threat : World Risk Society Revisited Theory, Culture & Society 19: 39-55