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Precarity unbound.

Departing from tendencies to bound precarity in particular time periods and world regions, this article develops an expansive view of precarity over time and across space. Beyond effects of specific global events and macroscale structures, precarity inhabits the microspaces of everyday life. However, people attempt to disengage the stress of precarious life by constructing the illusion of certainty. Reflexive denial of precarious life entails essentialist strategies that implicitly or explicitly classify and homogenize people and phenomena, legitimize the constructed boundaries, and in the process aim at eliminating difference and possibilities for negotiation; the tension between these goals and material realities helps explain misrepresentations that can be catastrophic at multiple scales, re-creating precarity. Reactions to 9/11 by the Bush administration represent a case in point of reflexive denial of precarity through strategies that created illusions of certainty with deleterious results. Normatively, the paradox of precarious life and reflexive denials prompts questions as to how urges for certainty in the context of precarity might be constructively channeled, the author approaches this challenge in the final section by drawing from a nexus of concerns about post-Habermasian radical democracy, individual thought and feeling, and network dynamics. Whereas Hardt and Negri reverse the direction of the Foucauldian concept of biopower from top-down to bottom-up, the author draws from Foucault's concept of governmentality in relation to resistance to imagine a cooperative politics operating within as well as across scales. Keywords: precarity, human condition, war on terror, governmentality, scale, resistance

Precarity is widely understood with reference to the casualization of labor in post-Fordist, immaterial production and in association with post-welfare states, notably in Europe and the United States. (1) Recently, Judith Butler portrayed precarious life as a post 9/11 condition in the United States. (2) I wish to present precarity as a condition of vulnerability relative to contingency and the inability to predict. While precarity is an apt descriptor of conditions rendered by labor regimes as well as by terrorism more generally, my purpose is to extend accounts of precarity beyond specific understandings relative to periodized labor regimes and terrorism. I suggest that bounding precarity spatially and temporally is an implicitly essentialist enterprise. (3)

At issue is not any need to jettison boundaries or categories altogether, but to be more self-conscious about the problems of boundary construction and to understand how tendencies to essentialize might be constructively engaged. It is to the constructed fixity of boundaries rather than boundaries themselves that I object. The task I set at the outset is to develop an expansive view of precarity by dissolving spatiotemporal boundaries. Subsequently, I develop an argument that pivots on a paradox. Precarity is located in the microspaces of everyday life and is an enduring feature of the human condition. It is not limited to a specific context in which precarity is imposed by global events or macrostructures. Yet, another part of the human condition is the essentialist urge to construct illusions of certainty amid uncertainty and vulnerability, precarity. "We have never been modern" insofar as the certainty, security, and precision that characterizes modernist thinking belie the uncertainty, vulnerability, and untidiness of individuals' lives across time and space. (4) Neither are we now postmodern from a poststructural vantage point, recognizing the postmodern tendency to mimic essentialist enterprises by enclaving times and places thought not to be modern. However, although our economic, political, social, cultural, and ecological environments across time and space do not conform to unidimensional modernist designs, people nonetheless strive to represent their world in modernist terms. This is because a nonmodernist, nonessentialist world is uncomfortable! People grope for certainty. Reflexive denial of precarious life poses problems as people misrepresent complex realities and act on those misrepresentations, in turn recreating precarity. Both precarity and reflexive denials are produced in particular contexts as a matter of the contingent intersections of actors' experiences across time and space; they are not given by a particular governmentality, but rather, they constitute evolving and intersecting governmentalities. (5)

In the spirit of Judith Butler's normative project in Precarious Life, I then ask how urges for certainty amid uncertainty might be constructively channeled into a transformative governmentality--a difficult and far from perfunctory path. (6) In the final section I approach this challenge by drawing from a nexus of concerns about post-Habermasian radical democracy, individual thought and feeling, and network dynamics. Although my project entails rescaling precarity from global events and macrostructures to the microspaces of daily life, the view "from below," while normative, is less sanguine than Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri's Multitude, precisely because precarity infuses daily life and renders transformation contingent and difficult. (7) Further, the view here "from below" connects with processes operating at other scales, including "at the top" in an approach that is multiscalar. Whereas Hardt and Negri reverse the direction of the Foucauldian concept of biopower from top-down to bottom-up, I draw from Foucault's concept of governmentality in relation to resistance to imagine a cooperative politics operating within as well as across scales.

Dismantling Perceived Boundaries of Precarity

I take as given that precarity is engendered by global events such as 9/11 as well as by production systems that render labor redundant and operate on the principle of labor's contingency. However, I want to make a case for precarity across time and space. My purpose is not to replace but rather to extend current views of precarity. The analytical task lies in clarifying the everydayness of conditions that give rise to precarity. Specifically, in this section I address terrorism and contingent work conditions as common across time and space, and operative at multiple scales. The analytical value of precarity as a concept lies not in its distinction as an end-result phenomenon that is spatially and/or temporally contained or bracketed, but rather in the context-specific variation both in the processes that give rise to precarity and how precarity is engaged.

Terrorism itself, although commonly understood in terms of organized global events such as 9/11, can be expanded if we interpret it broadly as physical and nonphysical violence that invokes fear. (8) From this vantage point, while feelings of vulnerability may be new to many privileged people in the United States, they are old news to disadvantaged minorities in the United States and around the world who live under formal and informal constraints imposed by the majority. Terrorism materializes at multiple scales as part of social, political, cultural, and economic frictions, and uneven power relations that occur in households, neighborhoods, shopping malls, workplaces, and nodes in cyberspace. Precarity lies in the unpredictability of terror, which can emanate from a wide range of contexts: the household via domestic violence; urban ghettos via gang violence; formal and informal workplaces via the authoritarianism inherent in Taylorist relations of production; repressive surveillance either in authoritarian production or in exclusive consumer spaces; electronic sites of organized hate; and the socially constructed chaos associated with sporadic ecological disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Precarity spares no one, haunting even privileged persons who, like everyone else, cannot escape the terror of disease. The precarity of unpredictable terror engendered by apparently localized phenomena has enduring, transformative effects in places as well as across space, as affected actors change places and also are tapped for resources to engage problems produced by terror in particular places. (9)

Precarity engendered by contingent work conditions also is spatially extensive and longstanding. For example, as multinational corporations in the United States, Western Europe, and later, Japan (10) developed production facilities in low-wage countries after World War II, Taylorist assembly-line production (11) diffused worldwide, without, however, the sociopolitical components of the US/European-conceived Fordist "golden age," notably collective bargaining and mass consumption. (12) While the relative security implied by Fordism's golden age as well as by the welfare state are spatially confined to a small slice of the global economy--notably the United States and Western Europe--the partial diffusion of Fordism via branch plant industrialization insured precarious work conditions worldwide. Far from the norm, the relatively stable and secure work conditions that tend to be associated with Fordism's ephemeral heyday in the United States, Europe, and later Japan is only one of many paths in the social, economic, cultural, and political history of industrialization. (13)

Further, while Fordism's golden age refers spatially to a narrow slice of the global economy, on close inspection it also refers to a narrow slice of the work force within these apparently prosperous world regions, specifically privileged mainstream workers. In the United States, these workers tended to be white and male; in Europe, native men; and in Japan, middle-aged native men. Common axes of difference that define otherness include gender, race/ethnicity, citizenship (which often intersects with race/ethnicity), and sometimes age, recognizing that otherness and exclusion from privilege play out differently in different contexts. (14) Contrary to homogenizing binaries on the left such as capital/labor, plenty of people in the so-called golden era of Fordism worked contingently because uneven power relations along the lines of gender, age, race/ethnicity, and citizen/noncitizen meant that societal others were denied access to privileged jobs, collective bargaining, and more generally to a social safety net. (15)

In the United States the white middle class enjoyed, through post-Depression Keynesian policies, a welfare state, a condition that was institutionalized in Western European countries in terms of variants of a particular type of state-society relation. (16) The precarity understood to underscore so-called post-welfare, post-Fordist conditions actually characterized the lives of countless others during Fordism's apparent golden age. (17) Similarly, we can find instances of relatively secure labor conditions for some people in some organizations in the so-called post-Fordist era.

Bracketing regions and populations relative to a classification of regimes of accumulation is problematic because it establishes a norm that obfuscates conditions pertaining to a significant percentage of the world's regions and populations; further, this enterprise also homogenizes regions, populations, and dynamics within places and time periods, thereby denying voice to the large number of people who are exceptions, implicitly becoming complicit with the construction of discourses that perpetuate uneven power relations. Theoretical frameworks of, for example, regulation, (18) late capitalism, (19) and empire, (20) are instructive and provocative, but nonetheless tend to discursively institutionalize boundaries in academic study and legitimize homogenizing and classificatory enterprises that create serious problems while creatively engaging other issues.

At issue then, is "who counts"? (21) If others count, then the idea of spatially and temporally bounded regimes of accumulation (e.g., "Fordism," "post-Fordism," "late capitalism") become tenuous in light of multiple pathways within regions and time periods. (22) Alternatively, if we depart from normalizing schemes that discount, we can look to the different processes that give rise to precarious labor conditions for different groups of people in variable space-time contexts. This analytical flexibility requires acknowledging a host of governing mentalities such as racism, patriarchy, and the like as much as class relations. And accordingly, the Fordist golden age or the welfare state represents one of a number of types of conditions in a place during a particular time period. The view here is not a privileging of minority over majority patterns and processes, but rather recognizing multiple patterns and processes and the relations among them.

In responding to general tendencies to locate precarity in terrorist events or in regimes of accumulation, then, I advocate a more expansive view, focusing analytically not on precarity, but rather on the phenomena thought to engender precarity and their spatial and temporal extensiveness. Further, I suggest that precarity crosscuts spheres of life; it infuses life. For example, while the privileged worker under Fordism may not encounter precarity by virtue of labor contingency, he might encounter it in the context of an authoritarian system of production and surveillance. From this vantage point, no one escapes precarity, although one might argue that some people who experience more constraints than others also experience more dimensions of precarity. Precarity is engendered by a wide range of processes and, as it extends across space and time and also materializes (differently) in social, economic, political, and cultural spheres, it is an enduring feature of the human condition. It inhabits everything from the global political economy to the vicissitudes of employment, health, social relations, self-perception. My interest is with rescaling precarity to permit a view of the human condition from the bottom up.

The Untidy Geographies of Precarity

An expansive and multidimensional view of precarity beyond terrorist events and regimes of accumulation locates precarity in the microspaces of daily life, in the spaces in which individuals think and feel and interact. Consider, for example, any routine site: the spaces of home, work, school, or leisure. In any one context, normalizing behavioral tendencies and regulatory systems act to homogenize, to produce a variegated map across space of context-specific tastes and values. (23) Rarely is the surety of these contexts overtly challenged because to do so risks alienation, irrespective of the nature of a group, whether reactionary or radical. The problem is fundamentally one of difference, and despite common claims of tolerance if not respect for others, groups that effectively celebrate internal differences are unusual; even more unusual is the ability of a group to sustain agonistic respect (24) over time within self-identified boundaries. Crucially, although the risk of difference presents a formidable obstacle to overt challenges to the status quo (again, whether reactionary or radical), every individual nonetheless has the opportunity to retain and indeed cherish alternative thoughts and feelings. As Michel Foucault commented, the tendency to sacralize the social by overlooking individuals' thoughts (and I would add, feelings) is unfortunate because individuals' thoughts (and feelings) hold the potential for radical criticism and social transformation. (25) At issue are not individual thoughts and feelings versus social relations, but rather a dissolution of the analytical binary and a focus on the relation between the two. (26) This approach helps engage how oppositional consciousness takes shape at the outset, prior to established groups. (27) Whether a challenge to normativity remains a silent performativity or becomes overt and possibly connects with the individualized oppositional consciousness of others is, however, a contingent matter; therein lies uncertainty, unpredictability--precarity.

The contingency that renders behavior and social interaction unpredictable pertains to untidy geographies, the incoherent mix of an individual's thoughts and feelings that derive from disparate experiences in different contexts across space, over time. (28) From this vantage point, behavior and social interaction at any one place and time can be excavated by tracing actors' logics to the social, economic, political, and cultural contexts they have traversed. This nonessentialist approach refuses separation of spheres of life into politics, economics, family, work, and so on, and also refuses separation of rationality and emotions. (29) Dissolving conventional binaries means that every actor operates with a singular configuration of multiple logics, which are constituted by a mix of calculations and emotions cross-cutting political, economic, social, and cultural rationalities. (30) Contrary to the idea of cognitive dissonance, in which one logic eventually eclipses all others and thereby resolves dissonant thoughts, (31) the view here is that there is no necessary resolution. Life is untidy in part because thoughts and feelings that derive from a specific configuration of experiences may differ from the normalizing logic of one particular context and persist, albeit covertly in recoiled form. The surfacing of a particular logic or intersection of logics at any one moment depends upon the nature of linkage between the immediate context, an individual's experiences from different contexts over time, as well as on how each actor's kaleidoscope of thoughts and feelings intersects with those of other actors engaged in interaction. Unpredictability characterizes the contingent collision of an individual's multiple logics as well as the intersection of different actors' logics and, moreover, whether individuals' oppositional consciousnesses may materialize. The impossibility of prediction renders life precarious, both for individuals who may harbor oppositional consciousnesses and for those in positions of authority who design tactics to normalize group behavior and implicitly hope for the absence of difference, which can become a matter of resistance.

Reflexive Denial and Essentializing Constructions of Classification, Homogenization, and Legitimation

The everydayness of precarity holds clues as to how people routinely, if implicitly, develop strategies that permit feelings of certainty amid uncertainty. People grope for the surety to navigate social, political, economic, and cultural life through everyday discursive and material practices. Even singular events such as 9/11, which seem to preclude the surety of certainty, prompt strategies to circumvent and disengage the discomfort of vulnerability and unpredictability. For example, one reflex to 9/11 was the widespread emergence of the national flag outside people's homes throughout the United States in rural as well as urban neighborhoods, across lines of race/ethnicity as well as class. At issue here is the use of a symbol to produce feelings of solidarity and security in a nation, (32) which might otherwise be understood as hyper-segregated; yet the unity imagined by so many citizens is incongruous with the disproportionate numbers of poor people of color who became soldiers in the war in Iraq, another reaction to 9/11 on a larger scale. The discussion below unpacks strategies to insure certainty and is followed by a section that elaborates on the war in Iraq and related issues to empirically ground the overall framework.

A central point is that practices to ensure certainty emerge from the implicit recognition of the uncertainty that is denied. This ironic complementarity has important implications because denial of realities may result in misconstrued representations, with consequences for inappropriate if not damaging or even disastrous decisionmaking. If opportunities are to be identified and used toward social transformation, at issue is how and why common practices in social, economic, political, and cultural life pose obstacles, even if inadvertently so.

Strategies to achieve certainty direct attention to essentialist thinking as a reflexive denial of precarious life. In particular, I suggest that people routinely pursue three main avenues of essentialist logic to withstand the stress of precarity: classification, homogenization, and legitimization. Whereas classification focuses on differences but not similarities among groups, homogenization focuses on similarities but not differences within groups. Implicitly, classification and homogenization complement each other as strategies to eliminate difference: classification insulates specific groups from contact with different groups while homogenization normalizes and suffocates difference within groups. Legitimization, then, is the means by which identities and power relations bound up in classification and homogenization are justified and possibly institutionalized. In this light, biopower, (33) which entails the governance and regulation of a population, takes shape via classification, homogenization, and legitimization.

The urge for certainty connects with efforts to eliminate difference because difference is messy, difficult, and can disrupt normalizing schemes. Classification and homogenization carve the world into discrete, (overtly) homogeneous, predictable units, and erect boundaries around which people navigate their social lives and position their selves. Significantly, the discreteness does not imply autonomy; rather, groups (and groups within groups or classes) are positioned relative to one another in uneven power relations. (34)

The concepts of "framing" and "overflowing" as discussed by Michel Gallon are useful toward interpreting classification and homogenization in relation to reflexive denials of precarity. (30) Framing refers to closure in the sense of a bracketing of relations and the construction of boundaries between a set of relations and the rest of the world--a classificatory exercise (or an exercise of homogenization regarding internal differentiation). Overflowing refers to leaks, the blurring of boundaries. Callon argued that framing is rare because it is difficult to achieve such clear demarcation and boundary construction in light of the prevalence of overflows. Alternatively, I argue that overflows may prevail via untidy geographies, yet essentializing tendencies toward framing--constructing the illusion of certainty--nonetheless also prevail, discursively. Reflexive denial of similarities across groups and of difference within groups are the means by which actors frame and thus contain power and block overflows, despite individuals' untidy geographies that render boundaries porous. The paradox of socially constructed certainty in the context of precarity is conceptually a matter of unpacking the discursive, the material, and their interrelation, and analytically recognizing how framing and overflowing both prevail in different ways.

The usefulness of essentialism toward alleviating the stress of precarious life helps explain its prevalence, even while the form of the tools to achieve an essentialist vision (classification, homogenization, and legitimization) varies across social, economic, political, and cultural contexts. And while essentialism secures power relations, it poses serious problems for actual interrelations and differences within and among groups. An especially serious problem is the longstanding nature of legitimization, which permits the institutionalization of problematic misrepresentations that are constructed on the basis of classification and homogenization, thereby impeding spaces of negotiation. Toward grounding this discussion and relating it to the untidy geographies inhabited by precarity, I turn now to the war in Iraq, and against terrorism more broadly, as a reflexive denial of 9/11.

An Illustration: Bush, Iraq, and the War on Terror

I begin with a fundamental question: Why did Bush, together with Cheney and a few advisors, decide to respond to Al-Qaeda's terrorist action by waging war on Saddam Hussein, who was unconnected to 9/11? The nature of this decision, its implementation, and its disastrous consequences, cast it as one of the most bizarre in history, not to mention one of the most destructive. How could the source of 9/11 become spatially displaced to Iraq? How could the so-called war on terror be framed in terms of Iraq, when terrorist groups have proliferated around the world, far beyond Hussein's reach at the time of 9/11? Further, how could such a decision have been legitimized in the eyes of at least a significant percentage of the US population?

The decision by Bush and his closed circle of advocates to invade Iraq was a way to resolve conditions of extreme uncertainty. The unthinkable had happened in the United States, and a response was required. But Al-Qaeda loomed large as a set of "shadowy networks" while the military-industrial complex had become embedded in a high-tech paradigm of precision bombing and surveillance. (36) Ironically, although new technology had changed the military face, the old geographic model of locatable targets of fixed latitudinal/longitudinal coordinates persisted in postmodernized form, (37) and was impotent in the context of flexible, mutable networks capable of temporarily moving into abeyance, expanding, contracting, and/or merging with other networks, reconfiguring. (38) Here I depart from Hardt and Negri's assertion that the war on terror had no spatial boundaries. (39) While terrorism itself may have no spatial boundaries, I suggest that the specific war waged on terrorism by the Bush administration was a spatially contained enterprise designed to frame something (terrorism) that was apparently overflowing; the tension between the Bush administration's illusion and on-the-ground realities helps explain the disaster. The inability to react to Al-Qaeda's "shadowy networks" prompted the Bush administration to strive for certain results using new technologies that required targets with clear boundaries. The decision to invade a country, a spatial unit with conventionally demarcated boundaries, intersected with military capabilities.

But why Saddam Hussein and not some other dictator? Under the pressure to act with limited capabilities, a military solution in the form of a preemptive war intersected with existing US bipartisan post-Cold War foreign policy that was developed in George Bush Sr.'s administration with Dick Cheney as the secretary of defense, and was further pursued in the Clinton administration. (40) The "Rogue Doctrine" eclipsed ideas of a peace dividend and instead held that the United States in a post-Soviet era should be prepared to militarily engage and contain third world rogue states, one of the most prominent of which was declared to be Iraq. In this light, what seems unthinkable, a preemptive war in the twenty-first century, waged against the recommendation of the United Nations, is unsurprising and followed suit from a host of military engagements, most recently Afghanistan. Further, George W. Bush's personal interest in avenging Saddam's alleged assassination attempt on his father intersected with his vice president's logic rooted in his investment in the Rogue State Doctrine, and Iraq in particular. Both the person, Saddam Hussein, and the place, Iraq, were on standby for attack; 9/11 offered the impetus for further implementing the Rogue State Doctrine while also serving as a response to 9/11 in the absence of capabilities to engage Al-Qaeda's diffuse networks. Further, a formal war made good business sense at the height of a neoliberal regime for which Bush had become a mouthpiece, and from which Cheney in particular was in an excellent position to benefit through Halliburton. The decision to invade Iraq as a response to 9/11 was produced by the collision of multiple logics rooted in disparate contexts across time and space, from Bush and Cheney's divergent personal emotional and intellectual investments to established US political doctrine and personal as well as generalized economic opportunities embedded in neoliberalism.

The decision to invade Iraq as a response to 9/11 was then framed by extricating the details (such as causes and source) from the terror of 9/11 and suppressing critical information. Bush and Cheney displaced the shock of 9/11 to a designated axis of evil that was easily defined spatially and could be readily targeted. The classification of space into discrete places amenable to military action of spatial containment transformed the ambiguity of shadowy networks, the anxieties engendered by those ambiguities, and the tumult of apparently uncontrollable terrorism into a calculable course of events. The illusion of certainty was set.

The on-the-ground realities diverged, however, from the discourse of surety promoted by the Bush administration, as guerrilla warfare in Iraq followed the so-called US military victory and clarified the need for political, not military engagement. (41) The grueling problems in Iraq are unsurprising by virtue of Bush's homogenization of Iraqi society. The generality of the imperative to destroy evil overshadowed not only the different sources of anti-Western sentiment, such as Iraq and Al-Qaeda, but also belied complex and conflicting interests within the so-called axis of evil. Profound opposition to the United States within Iraq was unanticipated, as were deep divisions within Iraqi society. The classification of the world into good and evil, the construction of urgency specifically in Iraq as a certain and locatable target within the axis of evil, and the homogenization of Iraqi society framed the decision to invade Iraq as a response to 9/11; the disastrous results reflect the overflows of terrorism and the problems with the Bush administration's exercises of classification and homogenization.

While Iraq became a site of escalating problems, the US spatial containment strategy left unattended the proliferation, expansion, and coordination of transnational terrorist networks. (42) The imperative to physically destroy the enemy, which was understood in Cartesian terms of specific people and locations, missed the roots of terrorism that emanate from political as well as economic and socio-cultural alienation, and also ignored the multiple forms as well as the flexibility and resilience of terrorist networks. Upscaling untidy geographies from individual actors to networks of actors illuminates the spatiality of terrorism and helps clarify the impossible project of an exclusively Cartesian paradigm in the context of fluid, mutable organizations. Further, the increasingly decentralized nature of power in the evolving Al-Qaeda network of networks has meant that individual cells operate entrepreueurially in the context of the experiences of constituent members, very unpredictably. Effective counterterrorism is achieved not by the physical destruction of particular locations and people, but rather by monitoring the operation and dynamics of networks across space while working to eliminate the pernicious conditions that give rise to terrorism in particular contexts of social, economic, political, and cultural disenfranchisement. (43) Terrorism is a last, not a first, resort; it is a result and reflection of festering problems that have been ignored for apparent lack of economic or political expedience. The increased threat of terrorism since 9/11 owes itself to the persistence of the perceived inexpedience of attending to its causes and dynamics.

Against the backdrop of profound errors in the US war against terrorism, the story of George W. Bush continued as he was reelected to the presidency in 2004. He justified the war in Iraq on the grounds of his classification of the world in terms of good and evil, and disregarded the existence and force of factionalism in Iraq. Although the moral crusade of good against evil was attractive to a bewildered US public whose complacent security had been shattered, morality as a popular explanation for Bush's reelection is a smokescreen for more complex issues. What fueled Bush's reelection was the electorates search for certainty, which Bush expressed in the terms of a specifically Christian morality that spatially classified good and evil. The "goodness" and the "lightness" of the US war was bolstered by a voluntary military force, even if military registration for many individuals was motivated more by financial need than moral persuasion. An effective opposition to the Bush administration would have required a platform that articulated an alternative path to certain futures. John Kerry, and the Democratic Party more generally, failed by not developing an alternative discourse toward a more secure world. While Bush presented an unwavering stance that entailed calculable plans (even if the actual consequences were neither calculated nor even imagined), Kerry focused on criticisms and on the negative consequences of the war to US soldiers, the economy, and foreign relations. Far more devastating than attacks on Kerry's military and voting records was the Republican campaign of painting Kerry as a waffler. Morality was a particular means by which preemptive war and breaches of international law were legitimized in the larger context of a quest for certainty amid unprecedented uncertainty.

This story of George W. Bush, Iraq, and the war on terror suggests that 9/11 is but one event among ongoing processes. This is not meant to deny the significance, horror, and indeed precarity produced by 9/11, but rather to recognize that precarious life following 9/11 derives as much from ongoing processes and decisionmaking that may be only tangentially related to 9/11. In particular, I have focused on decisionmaking in the Bush administration, which can be excavated through multiple logics (from established foreign policy to personal emotional and professional investments of Bush and Cheney, neoliberalism, and high-tech military engagement) across the untidy geographies of a wide range of contexts at different scales, including individuals' occupational history, family space, policy circles, the military industrial complex, and government. The decision to invade Iraq and the evolution of the war on terrorism more broadly produced a discourse constituted by constructions of certainty rooted in idiosyncratically produced collisions of multiple logics across specific contexts. From this perspective, governmentality, including biopower, entails dynamics that evolve at the outset not "at the top," but rather in the microspaces of daily life, and over time evolve and reverberate on multiple scales. (44)


Contingent intersections produced a bizarre and precarious reflex of denial--not of 9/11 but of the precarity it produced--by displacing its perpetration from Al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein. The strategy of displacement entailed a classification of the world into axes of good and evil (with Saddam Hussein at the center of evil), and a homogenization of Iraqi society to produce a national target that was considered amenable to US military capabilities and was moreover legitimized by established policy. Bush, as a political candidate, was able to overpower the precarity engendered by this decisionmaking by using a rhetoric of morality as a vehicle for creating an illusion of certainty; in so doing he legitimized his decisions and the ensuing actions, and the electorate responded by reelecting him to the presidency. Although dissatisfaction later emerged during George W. Bush's second term, a set of destructive processes in Iraq, the United States, and throughout the world via global networks were set in motion.

Logics of Resistance: Toward a Positive Governmentality

There is, possibly, a dangerous message implicit in the above analysis, namely that effective resistance to the Bush administration might require yet another construction of certainty. This prompts the question as to whether the urge for certainty and the tools by which certainty is constructed--classification, homogenization, and legitimization--necessarily become associated with the corruption and incompetence that has characterized the Bush administration. If classification, homogenization, and legitimization are context-specific tools by which to construct more certain futures, is it possible to connect these tendencies positively, consistent with the type of normative vision expressed by Judith Butler in Precarious Life? (45) Is there a way to navigate similarities and differences that permits acceptance, celebration, and negotiation of similarities and differences within and among groups?

We can state the above questions more generally in terms of governmentality, and ask whether it is possible to construct a governmentality that is positive. (46) Governmentality often has a negative connotation in part because it encompasses biopower, which suggests regulation from above that can subjugate populations. (47) Yet again, governmentality encompasses biopower; it is not synonymous with it. Governmentality pertains to governance as an art because people are free agents and can resist regulatory norms. Despite the lack of discussion of resistance in Foucault's lecture on governmentality, (48) elsewhere Foucault clarified that people have the capacity to resist normalization. (49) Further, as indicated, governmentalities are constituted by the collision of multiple logics operating in the microspaces "at the top" (that is, the popularly conceived locus in authoritative structures) as well as "at the bottom," among "the multitude." (50) Whereas biopower is scale specific at its source, governmentality is multiscalar.

If we understand resistance as part of the framework of governmentality, then resistance represents an effort toward transformation. Although Foucault did not follow through to imagine a different, positive governmentality following effective resistance, Foucauldian scholars interested in resistance in relation to governmentality have engaged such positive imaginaries. (51) From this vantage point, resistance can be conceptualized as an effort to transform one governmentality into another. Following the discussion in preceding sections, a positive governmentality would require avoiding corruption by nurturing agonistic respect in the context of deliberative politics that permit negotiation among different groups. The perspective I develop below is multiscalar and consistent with most post-Habermasian approaches to radical democracy that embrace a relational approach to difference, but I elaborate this stance specifically from the perspective of the intersection of individual thought and feeling with network dynamics and a cooperative form of politics. (52)

Let me begin with groups, networks--a problem that returns us to classification and homogenization. One benefit of groups, and the need for individuals to belong to a group, is the flow of material and/or immaterial resources to individuals who align with a homogenized group identity. Whether money, information, trust, or emotional support, these different types of resources offer considerable value to group or network membership. The distribution of resources within groups offers relief from the precarity of life that may be constituted as much by constraints constructed by apparently fixed, hierarchical power relations as by the vicissitudes of the social, cultural, economic, political, and physical environments. Yet as Iris Young pointed out, the notion of a group can more fruitfully be interpreted in terms of "agreement," which is temporary and subject to negotiation, rather than "unity," which is fixed and binding; this perspective permits ongoing consideration of differences and similarities both within and among groups. (53)

In the rhythms of everyday life it is in the spaces of negotiation that expressions of difference can be pursued. Whether difference is performed overtly or covertly depends on the specific configuration of individuals' logics relative to the scope of their experiences as well as the nature of interaction and how different actors' logics configure in a particular context. To the extent that social transformation depends on collective oppositional consciousness, individual performances of difference must become overt and connect--a situation that requires opportunities to negotiate. In the context of the so-called war on terror, eventual overt performances of different views among members of the Bush administration, retired military officers, and so forth remained relatively individualized in a homogenized environment closed to negotiation. Bush's conventional mode of operation has been insular, involving a relatively small and closed circle of advocates who share the same view.

Spaces of negotiation are as crucial for interaction between, as within, groups. Paralleling the squelching of dissension within the Bush administration, spaces for negotiation between the insulated Bush administration and its subjects were absent, as US citizens opposed to the war in Iraq found themselves cast as outsiders by the Bush administration; poor coverage of opposition by the media reinforced exclusion and contributed to the ineffectiveness of dissenters. (54)

However, in the wake of a series of disasters (e.g., federal inefficiency following Hurricane Katrina, scandals within the Bush administration, persistent loss of lives in Iraq, and negatively affected lives in the United States), the internal homogenization of the Bush administration, and more generally the Republican Party ironically created an opportunity for the ousting of the Republican Congress in the first formal election during Bush's second administration. Arguably, if dissension within the Republican Party had been voiced in the first administration, alternative Republican thinkers may well have been elected to office; as it happened, Republicans began to voice difference from Bush administration policy following the power turn in Congress (and before the ensuing elections). Opposition to the Bush administration finally connected, surfaced, and became a relatively effective voice of resistance to Bush administration policy via a pact between the US electorate and the Democratic Party. The conflict that characterized the relation between "the bottom" (everyday US citizens) and "the top" (government) in the first Bush administration moved toward agreement vis-a-vis the electorate and the Democratic Party in the second Bush administration. This shift in the nature of politics from conflictual to cooperative prompts general questions regarding prospects for effective intergroup relations.

The relation between groups entails the problem of classification, and concomitantly, the exclusion of people who do not belong to groups. How oppositional consciousness materializes to shape the nature of the relation between groups in opposition to one another has important implications for prospects for change. Confrontational politics is a common avenue of group resistance that may be violent or nonviolent; this approach locates cooperation among groups "at the bottom" while the relation between "the bottom" and "the top" is confrontational, reinforcing the boundary between them. This type of approach is consistent with Hardt and Negri's conceptualization of resistance, which draws conceptually from biopower, reversing the direction of biopower from the top down to the bottom up; its scale specificity envelops cooperative politics, confining cooperation to a within-scale phenomenon. (55) Alternatively, "new" approaches to citizenship (56) aim at a cooperative politics that reconstructs the conventional, passive concept of rights to a proactive engagement with the existing system; people with oppositional consciousness participate ill, rather than oppose, governance. (57) The pact between the electorate and the Democratic Party is but one type of cooperative politics to construct change. More generally, proactive citizenship outside formal electoral politics entails the development of informal links via social, economic, and/or political networks, as well as the possibility of securing formal positions on "the inside" (at "the top"). Social transformation is realized not by confrontation, but by changing the actual face and composition of governance to insure sustainable communication between people in civic groups and governance structures, thereby cultivating spaces of negotiation within and between groups. (58)

Cooperative politics permit resistance to a governmentality by manipulating it and working to develop a new, positive governmentality that connects with the values of everyday citizens. Tactics from "the bottom" entail using existing structures that are unlikely to be overthrown by working with and influencing people who wield power. What is accomplished is connection and cooperation from the top down and the bottom up via a cooperative form of resistance that emanates from below; cooperation flows within and between scales. This approach is consistent with the multiscalar nature of governmentality, although note that the concept governmentality does not necessarily predict cooperative politics; that is, both confrontational and cooperative politics are possible avenues of resistance relative to context-specific contingencies and the nature of the intersections of multiple logics across time and space.

Especially in informal contexts outside electoral politics and formal governance structures, problems of exclusion (considering differences without similarities between groups) might possibly be resolved by strategic manipulation of the multiple groups or networks to which most actors belong and operate in daily life, and crucially, the overlap among networks that most actors experience, consciously or unconsciously It is the spaces of overlap in which common ground might be found and possibly manipulated toward strategic ends. (59) Whether actors recognize the strategic value of overlap and proactively tap that overlap, and moreover, connect, depends on the configuration of their logics and whether they are disposed to see and also act toward forging connections between otherwise discrete groups.


Returning to issues regarding terrorism and counterterrorism, it is ironic that the construction of strategic bridges between different networks has become a specialty of terrorist organizations--a skill that has escaped the conventional war on terror. (60) But normatively, we might consider an alternative classificatory counterterrorist systern that identifies and locates conditions of alienation. This approach moves classification beyond the US bipartisan discourse, which, notably in the first Bush administration, promulgated a we/they depiction of good versus evil in a world classified into free and rogue states; it also expands alienating conditions and the pre-carity that produces and is produced by them. Alienating conditions are as alive inside the United States and other so-called advanced economies in socially, economically, and politically disenfranchised communities, workplaces, shopping malls, and households as they are in refugee camps in the so-called third world. The untidy geographies of alienation require multiscalar efforts targeted to conditions that emerge across space, not to fixed attributes of exclusively conceived places. A multiscalar strategy refers to the development of sensibilities on the part of individuals and groups of individuals and their willingness to engage issues of difference on a "bottom up" basis, as much as the development of sensibilities on the part of power brokers in communities, workplaces, and the local and federal state to establish appropriate institutional parameters for behavior and social relations while making space for deliberation without discounting groups that are otherwise regarded as "peripheral," "minor," "outside the norm." (61)

Efforts to resolve problems of alienation must enfranchise individuals and groups by celebrating and negotiating, not repudiating and assimilating, identities. At issue is legitimizing the social relations that permit and nurture similarities and differences within and among groups, not the boundaries that homogenize and separate.


(1.) Mauritzio Lazzarato, "Immaterial Labor," in Paolo Virno and Michael Hardt, eds., Radical Thought in Italy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), pp. 133-150; Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000); Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude (New York: Penguin, 2004).

(2.) Judith Butler, Precarious Life (New York: Verso, 2004).

(3.) Judith Butler is well known for her work on deconstructing boundaries and categories as in, for example, Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1990), though her recent book (Butler, Precarious Life, note 2) implicitly commits some of the errors she has critiqued (notably bounding precarity), while at the same time offering trenchant analysis together with an inspiring normative argument.

(4.) Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, translated by C. Porter (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993).

(5.) Michel Foucault, "Governmentality," in James D. Faubion, ed., Power/Michel Foucault (New York: New Press, 2000), pp. 201-222; Nikolas Rose, Powers of Freedom: Refraining Political Thought (New York; Cambridge University Press, 1999).

(6.) Butier, Precarious Life, note 2.

(7.) Hardt and Negri, Multitude, note 1.

(8.) For definitional discussions of terrorism see Eqbal Ahmad, Terrorism (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001); D. Mustafa, "Terrorism and Hazards Research: An Agenda for an Oppositional Engagement," in B. Wisner and M. Fordham, eds., Radix: Radical Interpretations of Disaster, (2002).

(9.) From this perspective, processes operating in different places are connected. However, the fluidity of connections across space is far from the placeless landscape of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattarfs A Thousand Plateaus (Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1998). Rather, places are crucial anchors of relations that become reconfigured as they extend across space and time; see Doreen Massey, For Space (Thousand Oaks, Gal.: Sage, 2005).

(10.) Japan's role in the international division of labor is contested. Whereas the neoliberal "flying geese" model depicts Japan as a facilitor in industrial learning through direct foreign investment, in practice Japan developed an international spatial division of labor whereby lowest-skilled production was located in cheapest labor locations following a Taylorist model; see R. Hayter and D. W. Edginton, "Flying Geese in Asia: The Impacts of Japanese MNCs as a Source of Industrial Learning," Tijdschrift voor Economishe en Sociale Geografie (Journal of Economic and Social Geography) 95 (February 2004): 3-26.

(11.) Taylorist production refers to a style of management that entails rigid divisions of labor relative to skills or lack thereof that are required for various tasks; see Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Harper Brothers, 1911).

(12.) The need to regulate a balanced relation between production and consumption in specific regions became unnecessary as mass markets became globalized; in other words, the need to protect wages in a production region via collective bargaining in order to facilitate local mass consumption was not required.

(13.) Another type of path to industrialization is the subcontracting model in East Asia (as in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea) and South Asia (India); see, for example, Gary Gereffl and Donald L. Wyman, eds., Manufacturing Miracles (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1990).

(14.) Nancy Ettlinger, "Labor Market and Industrial Change: The Competitive Advantage and Challenge of Harnessing Diversity," Competition and Changed (January 2000): 171-210.

(15.) Ibid.

(16.) Christopher Pierson and Francis G. Castles, eds., The Welfare State (Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000); Paul Pierson, ed., The New Politics of the Welfare State (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).

(17.) The postmodern contention of fundamentally new conditions is contested. For example, rather than framing realities in terms of post-welfare states, many scholars engage in discussions of a restructured welfare state; see Pierson, ibid. Others deny fundamental changes; see V. Navarro, J. Schmitt, and J. Astudillo, "Is Globalization Undermining the Welfare State?" Cambridge Journal of Economics 28 (January 2004): 133--152.

(18.) Michel Aglietta, Accumulation et Regulation du Capitalisms en Longue Periods, thesis, Paris 1, 1974, cited in Robert Bover, "Technical Change and the Theory of 'Regulation,' " in G. Dosi, C. Freeman, R. Nelson, G. Silverberg, and L. Soete, eds., Technical Change and Economic Theory (New York: Pinter, 1988). See also Robert Brenner and Mark Glick, "The Regulation Approach: Theory and History," New Left Review 188 (July/August 1991): 47-119.

(19.) Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991).

(20.) See Hardt and Negri, Empire, note 1.

(21.) Butler gives attention to this issue in Precarious Life, note 2.

(22.) On organizational diversity, see G. Grabher and B. Stark, "Organizing Diversity: Evolutionary Theory, Network Analysis and Postsocialism," Regional Studies 31 (July 1997): 533-544.

(23.) This perspective links Bourdieu's examination of the production of cultural tastes and values with Lefehvre's approach to the production of space; as such there is a geography of tastes and values, which are specific to particular contexts. See Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction, translated by Richard Nice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984); Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1991).

(24.) William E. Connolly, Identity\Difference (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).

(25.) Michel Foucault, "So Is It Important to Think?" in Faubion, note 5, pp. 454-458.

(26.) Whereas actor network theory, for example, focuses on fluidity of networks and social relations, it tends, however, to elide singular contexts of individuals. I advocate an epistemological fluidity that considers both individual contexts and actor relations, and moves between the two; see N. Ettlinger, "Cultural Economic Geography and a Relational and Microspace Approach to Trusts, Rationalities, Networks, and Change in Collaborative Workplaces," Journal of Economic Geography 3 (April 2003): 145-171.

(27.) Most studies deal with oppositional consciousness among groups that are already established; see C, Sandoval, "U.S. Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World," Genders 10 (January 1991): 1-24; Jane Mansbridge and A. Morris, eds., Oppositional Consciousness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). For consideration of the formation of oppositional consciousness in individuals prior to the existence of groups that share an oppositional consciousness, see N. Etdinger, "Toward a Critical Theory of Untidy Geographies: The Spatiality of Emotions in Consumption and Production," Feminist Economics 10 (November 2004): 21-54.

(28.) See Ettlinger, "Toward a Critical Theory," ibid.

(29.) Ibid. On the interdependence of the economic, social, and cultural see Roger Lee, "Economic Geographies: Representations and Interpretations," in R. Lee and J. Wills, eds., Geographies of Economies (New York: Arnold, 1997), pp. xi-xiv; R. Lee, "The Ordinary Economy: Tangled Up in Values and Geography," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS 31 (December 2006): 413-432.

(30) Ettlinger, "Cultural Economic Geography, " note 26.

(31.) Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1957).

(32.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991).

(33.) Michel Foucault, "Security, Territory, Population," in Paul Rabinow, ed., Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth/ Michel Foucault (New York: The New Press, 1997), pp. 67-71.

(34.) Thus, it matters to which group one belongs, because groups with less power are constrained by those with more power; moreover, norms are context specific and thus vary across groups, as do the rules and consequences for anomalous behavior.

(35.) Michel Gallon, "An Essay on Framing and Overflowing: Economic Externalities Revisited by Sociology," in Michael Callon, ed., The Laws of the Markets (Maiden, Mass.: Blackwell,'l998), pp. 244-269.

(36.) George W. Bush formally discussed Al-Qaeda in terms of "shadowy networks" in The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, D.C.: The White House, 2002).

(37.) Chris H. Gray, Postmodern War (New York: Guilford, 1997). James Der Derian, Virtuous War (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 2001).

(38.) N. Ettlinger and F. Bosco, "Thinking Through Networks and Their Spatiality: A Critique of the US (Public) War on Terrorism and its Geographic Discourse," Antipodes (Spring 2002): 249-271.

(39.) Hardt and Negri, Multitude, note 1, p. 14.

(40.) Michael Klare, 'The Rise and Fall of the "Rogue Doctrine": The Pentagon's Quest for a Post-Cold War Military Strategy," Middle East Report 208 (1998): 12-15,47.

(41.) Robert Taber's Vietnam-era analysis of why guerrilla warfare cannot be engaged militarily pertains directly to current problems in Iraq; see Robert Taber, The War of the Flea (New York: The Citadel Press, 1969).

(42.) Frontline, "Al Qaeda's New Front," (2005).

(43.) Ettlinger and Bosco, note 38; see also C. J. Chivers, "Dutch Soldiers Stress Restraint in Afghanistan: Taking on Taliban by Helping Villagers," New York Times CLVI (6 April 2007): Al, A12.

(44.) N. Ettlinger, "Unchaining the Micro," SECONS (Socio-Economics of Space), (2007).

(45.) Butler, Precarious Life, note 2.

(46.) Foucault, "Governmentality," note 5.

(47.) The postcolonial literature offers vivid examples of such subjugation; see, for example, Artur Escobar, Encountering Development (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995); Timothy Mitchell, The Rule of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

(48.) Foucault, "Governmentality," note 5.

(49.) See discussion of governmentality and resistance in Ettlinger, "Unchaining the Micro," note 44.

(50.) Hardt and Negri, Multitude, note 1.

(51.) For example, see N. Argent, "The Neoliberal Seduction: Governing-At-A-Distance, Community Development and the Batrie Over Financial Services Provision in Australia," Geographical Research 43 (March 2005): 29-39; N. Clarke, C. Barnett, P. Cloke, and A. Malpass, "Globalising the Consumer: Doing Politics in an Ethical Register," Political Geography 26 (March 2007); D. Cooper, "Active Citizenship and the Governmentality of Local Lesbian and Gay Politics," Political Geography 25 (November 2006): 921-943; Barbara Cruikshank, The Will to Empower (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999).

(52.) See, for example, Butler, Precarious Life, note 2; Connolly, note 24; Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, 2d ed. (London: Verso, 2001); Iris M. Young, Inclusion and Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

(53.) Young, ibid.

(54.) Information dissemination channels via the media are often crucial toward rendering power brokers accountable and bringing pressure to bear on their decisionmaking; see J. Rothenberg-Aalami, "Coming Full Circle? Forging Missing Links Along Nike's Integrated Production Networks," Global Networks 4 (October 2004): 335-354.

(55.) Hardt and Negri, Multitude, note 1.

(56.) The perceived novelty of so-called "new" citizenship more likely pertains to the relatively recent emergence of the study of this approach to citizenship than to actual practices. Similar skepticism has been directed to so-called "new" social movements; see, for example, David Ptotke, "What's So New About Social Movements?" in Stanford M. Lyman, ed., Social Movements: Critiques, Concepts, Case Studies (New York: New York University Press, 1995), pp. 113-136.

(57.) For an insightful discussion of new approaches to citizenship in the context of cooperative politics and the contrast between cooperative and con-flictive approaches to social transformation, see Evalina Dagnino, "The Cultural Politics of Citizenship, Democracy, and the State," in Sonia E. Alvarez, Evalino Dagnino, and Arturo Escobar, eds., Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1998), pp. 33-63.

(58.) See, for example, Sonia E. Alvarez, "Latin American Feminisms "Go Global": Trends of the 1990s and Challenges of the New Millenium," in Alvarez, Dagnino, and Escobar, ibid., pp. 293-324.

(59.) Ettlinger, "Cultural Economic Geography," note 26.

(60.) On "strategic bridges," see Ronald S. Burt, Structural Holes (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992).

(61.) Nancy Ettlinger, "Bringing Democracy Home: Post-Katrina New Orleans," Antipode39 (February 2007): 8-16.

* Department of Geography, 1036 Derby Hall, 154 North Oval Mall, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43221. E-mail:

Nancy Ettlinger*
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