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Tellmann (2009). Imagining catastrophe: Scenario planning and the striving for epistemic security

Bibliographic details:

Tellmann, U. (2009). Imagining catastrophe: Scenario planning and the striving for epistemic security. economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, 10(2), 17-21.


The  Basel  Committee  on  Banking  Supervision  recently stated  that  one  important  cause  for  the  catastrophic  nature  of  the  financial  crisis  has  been  a  false  sense  of  security.  The report thereby rehearses the widely shared diagnoses that a lack of an appropriate estimation of risk exposures belongs to the core causes of the crisis. Interestingly, this  epistemological  failure  is  taken  to  be  a  “failure  of  imagination”  about  what  the  future  may  hold  in  store  (Basel  Committee  on  Banking  Supervision  2009:  17).  Accordingly,  the  efforts  of  regulation  called  for  are  directed  at  furthering  more  imaginative  and  flexible  views  of  the  future. They seek to imply modes of stress testing that are not  any  longer  linked  to  the  notion  of  risk  as  a  “constant statistical   process”   (ibid.:9f).   Imaginations   of   “shocks which have not previously occurred” (ibid:  14) promise – so it seems – more adequate knowledge about one’s own risks. The archive of previous occurrences and the statistical calculations  of  normal  distributions  are  replaced  by  “non-statistical  modes  of  anticipating  the  future”  (O’Malley 2003: 277).