Resilience - governance and in/security in interconnected societies

PhD Thesis

Kaufmann, Mareile (2016) Resilience - governance and in/security in interconnected societies. PhD thesis, Criminology, Hamburg University.

Within the domain of security politics narratives of interconnectedness are increasingly prominent. This discourse, so the thesis argues, has introduced a shift in security-oriented practices of governing. Insecurity can no longer be kept outside society through technologies of risk, but is embraced as an unavoidable consequence of radical relationality. As a result, resilience is being framed and legitimized as a universal response to shocks and unpredictable disruption. The different chapters of this thesis take a closer look at the relation between resilience and interconnectedness, understanding interconnectedness not only as emblematic of complexity thinking, but also as descriptive of societies that have embraced the internet into their everyday interactions. The thesis offers empirical investigations and a conceptual discussion about resilience as a way of governing interconnected societies, which has become prominent, for example, in the field of internet politics and cyber security-exercises, as well as resilience as a way of governing through interconnectedness, analyzing the integration of digital and networked technologies into resilience practices and the use of social media for coping with shocks. In reflecting about how resilience discourses invoke complexity and network theories this thesis finds that resilience exists as a result of and as a means to sustain interconnectedness. As a result, resilience becomes a way of governing. The linkage between resilience and complexity thinking has also become a central theme in policy discourses. In fact, the increased integration of technologies of interconnectedness into modes of societal interaction perpetuates such narratives of ontological complexity and the resulting necessity for resilience as a way of governing. The intimate linkage of complexity and resilience discourses is also reflected on the level of spatiality. The internet itself is, for example, no longer a cyber space, but has become an 'interconnection ecosystem', which necessitates and legitimizes resilience as a way of governing its complex workings. Digital technologies have also begun to transform the practice of dealing​ with emergencies, because they mediate the proximity and physical remoteness of emergency planners, recipients of emergency help and the more general 'crowd'. Interconnectedness also leads to the emergence of emergency, which determines the temporality of resilience. Within resilience policy, it is the either the emergency of the past, the present or the future that requires resilience. Thus, by interweaving these different temporal strands political practices of resilience tend to perpetuate and extend the regime of insecurity. The digital, so this thesis finds, compresses and expands the temporal relation to the event, accelerating and decelerating instantiations of resilience. On a conceptual level, however, resilience presupposes a temporality of the indefinite: in order to secure the continuation of life itself resilience needs to be instantiated continuously. Interconnectedness also entails concrete consequences for resilience epistemologies, which combine the paradox, knowing that the future cannot be known, with the negative, namely expected disruption. Epistemologically, resilience as a way of governing introduces a shift from making future disruption known through risk towards a know-how-to-respond. The digital plays a central role here, because it introduces practices of measuring, indexing, association and algorithmic analysis, which give rise to the pattern as a new epistemological authority to plan response. As a result, resilience as a way of governing the interconnected society is productive of a new notion of security. In an interconnected world, security is no longer a state of being protected but an activity, a process. Security is emergent. As a direct result of the epistemological, ontological and temporal claims of resilience as a way of governing, security can only ever be established ex-post facto – in relation to disruption. Here, acting out security is primarily a concern of the 'self' and political leadership becomes a matter of enabling, forging or facilitating options for self-organization. The subject has to organize itself, because without doing so the 'system world' would disintegrate. This need for the subject to self-organize shows how indebted resilience is to the scientific ethos of complexity thinking. In fact, resilience foresees the strategic engagement of insecurity to foster security, because breakdown is understood as the opportunity to learn. Technologies of interconnectedness not only embrace narratives of ever-present insecurity, but they also facilitate this organization of the 'self' by foregrounding the 'crowd' as an important local actor, as well as by creating and providing knowledge about emergencies and resilience through patterns.For future research this thesis suggests a distinction between resilience as a principle and resilience as program. In principle, resilience as a way of governing foresees the inherently insecure subject to enact security constantly; the subject, however, can choose in what way it does so, leaving some, restricted room for agency. Resilience as a program, however, foresees the inherently insecure subject to perform in a specific manner. Resilience then becomes a form of conducting the conduct of disaster populations and extends control all the way towards the 'self'. With that distinction between principle and program in mind, counter-conduct becomes a crucial subject of investigation, exploring the strictly non-relational and moments of powerlessness, which may instantiate itself in a subject that simply does not or cannot 'organize' itself.