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‘Uncertainty Makes Us Free:’ Risk, Insurance and Freedom

Behemoth: A Journal of Civilization, Forthcoming

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 09/99

30 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2009  

Pat O'Malley

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: September 25, 2009

Abstract

Uncertainty, especially through the techniques of foresight, prudence and enterprise, has been essential to liberal rationalities of freedom. The 'free' market, the vision of 'free' subjects creating their own futures, the idea of 'free' spirits making the most of opportunities - all these imply an uncertain world. Such liberal visions see a probabilistically calculable future as compromising freedom, implying a planned world at odds with the 'open society.' Yet liberalism also relies on expertise linked to a modernist rationality of government that seeks to render the future scientifically calculable and thus 'more free.' The resulting tension is braided throughout the genealogy of liberalism and arguably has shaped its various historical forms. In this paper this tension is explored through the place of insurance in various historical configurations of liberal governance. In turn, this suggests ways in which the category of 'uncertainty' - so prominent in the politics of the risk society - needs to be thought through with more precision than is usually the case in current theory

Keywords: risk, uncertainty, liberalism, freedom, governmentality, security

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

O'Malley, Pat, ‘Uncertainty Makes Us Free:’ Risk, Insurance and Freedom (September 25, 2009). Behemoth: A Journal of Civilization, Forthcoming; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 09/99. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1478256

Pat O'Malley (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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