All partners logo heb

Collier (2008). Enacting catastrophe: preparedness, insurance, budgetary rationalization

Bibliographic details:

Collier, S. J. (2008). Enacting catastrophe: preparedness, insurance, budgetary rationalization. Economy and society, 37(2), 224-250


This article examines ‘enactment’ as a significant new form of knowledge about collective life that differs fundamentally from familiar forms of ‘social’ knowledge. The emergence of enactment is traced through a series of domains where the problem of estimating the likelihood and consequence of potentially catastrophic future events has been made an explicit object of expert reflection: response to a possible nuclear attack in US civil defense planning in the late 1940s; the emergence of natural hazard modelling in the 1960s and 1970s; and the emergence today of terrorism risk assessment and its proposed application to federal budgetary distributions. The article engages with central questions in debates around ‘risk society’ and insurance, holding that new approaches to understanding and assessing risk are not merely idiosyncratic or subjective. Rather, they should be treated as coherent new forms of knowledge and practice whose genealogy and present assemblies must be traced.