Risk Society

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Comment by Brian Holmes:

"Foucault suggests that just a little over fifty years ago, a long tradition of individual self-governance, which begins with the Reformation, was decisively remodeled by the neoliberals: i.e. the Chicago-based followers of von Mises and von Hayek. They reinterpreted the individual concern with finding the best modes of self-conduct as a monetary economy, a calculation of one's most profitable behavior. And in times of crisis - in postwar Germany, Pinochet's Chile, or 1980s USA - they conceived new market frameworks to facilitate this calculation. Every social investment (wages, retirement, health-care, security, and even marriage, child-rearing, etc) is to be calculated in terms of individual risk and reward. In the risk society, what really happens is that individuals are entrusted with the anguishing task of creating a totally predictable and therefore totally secure world.

It's still possible for law professors or philosophers to write utopias of eventful cooperation, but economists now see only one thing: predictable self-interest. This is their only measure, gradually applied by state policy to everything. The conflicts in the developed world no longer unfold between proletarians and capitalists, but between those who accept to calculate their self-interest within markets structured to that end, and those who deliberately create heterodox frameworks for the enjoyment of cooperation. Such conflict is particularly obvious in the shifting socio-technical forms deployed on the Internet." (IDC mailing list, July 2007)