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"Future now”: Preparedness and scenario planning

Type of publication Not peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Other publication (non peer-review)
Author Bastide Loïs,
Project Organizing, Communicating, and Costing in Risk Governance: Learning Lessons from the H1N1 Pandemic
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Other publication (non peer-review)

Book "Future now”: Preparedness and scenario planning
Publisher Working Papers Institut de recherches sociologiques, Université de Genève

Open Access


Since the 9/11 attacks, preparedness has become the dominant way of thinking about domestic security in the United States. This emerging form of “security rationality” has resulted in a variety of related activities. In order to foster a “prepared na-tion,” laws have been passed, institutions have been created, and preparedness, as a dominant paradigm and as a set of practices, has been organized, promoted and diffused across society. In the process, an increasing range of social activities and “social worlds” have been reconfigured in order to incor-porate preparedness principles. As critical scholars have no-ticed, preparedness, is coincident with a shift in the perception of the future, from one of risk, towards one of uncertainty or even threat. While the idea of risk tends to present the future as a development of current trends, the idea of uncertainty gener-ates a perception of the future as a radical discontinuity. This orientation toward a future brimming with fears and dangers is vividly exemplified by two of the main techniques implemented to organize preparedness: scenario planning and exercises. The paper focuses on both these “preparedness tools”, in the con-text of preparedness, understood as an organizing process. We posit that scenarios and exercises, implemented in order to govern uncertainty, can be conceptualized as “presenting” techniques: practices that shift the future into the present and thus make it amenable to preparedness planning.