Presentation | In the land of the blind the speculative eye should be king: The possibilities and limitations of observing silent and potential disasters in evolving governance | RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019 |
In the land of the blind the speculative eye should be king: The possibilities and limitations of observing silent and potential disasters in evolving governance
Building on Niklas Luhmann’s theory of social systems and its contemporary: the poststructuralist evolutionary governance theory, we explore the possibilities and limits of observing silent and potential disasters. These are the material changes in the environment of any discursive system that escapes the deliberate attention or observation by that system (or humans, organisations, discourses). We argue that in our current societies the functioning of the different function systems (politics, law, science, art) are unavoidably missing out by definition, every observation creates its own blind spot for everything else. To be adaptive, and to manage the observation of silent disasters, is about analysing the way materiality is conceived of in governance, the way governance shapes observation of the material world and its risks, and, most difficult, the way material context and material legacies (e.g. infrastructures, old pollution) that shape in silent ways the structure and function of governance. For this we need to re-conceptualise the roles and relations between time, second-order observation and reflexivity in and about social systems, that make different and sometime contradictory observations possible. We conclude that for increasing the likelihood of observing of the ‘known unknown’ disasters and ‘unknown unknown disasters the rigidities embedded in the function systems, especially in the natural and social sciences needs to be reconsidered. We conclude with a plea for speculation, fiction, conspiracy, witchcraft and a ‘sensitisation for the ruptures of the real’. (Indeed, a conclusion against the current emerging fear of irrationality and post-structuralism in debates about the so-called post-truth society).
By: Martijn Duineveld (Wageningen University, The Netherlands) and Kristof Van Assche (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)