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Event, meaning and affect
J. Peter Burgess

This chapter analyses the hour-by-hour reactions to the attacks of 22 July 2011. Focussing primarily on television news coverage, it documents, puts into context then examines the events through the eyes of political and social leaders who dominate the public discourse. The chapter also analyses the way that news media interpreted what the public reactions were, how they should be interpreted in context and what the more general politial impact of these experiences might be. It begins with coverage of the very first hours after the attack when confusion and uncertainty reigned. It continues with an analysis of the first official press conference by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. The chapter then develops a larger reflection on the role of values in shaping what the facts of the event were understood to be, and reflects on the political nature of any analysis of the threat or danger, and the role that values play in shaping politics. The chapter then turns to the rise and fall of the collective spirit in the Norwegian self-understanding and the role played by the royal family in maintaining that spirit. It concludes with an analysis of the famous Rose March, a unique enactment of solidarity that structured the threats realised on 22 July as threats to the national ‘we’.

in Security after the unthinkable
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J. Peter Burgess

This chapter looks beyond the book’s findings and suggests a range of social, political, moral and metaphysical implications about security and disenchantment that open up. It begins with a discussion of the processes of memorialisation of 22 July 2011 and the continuities and discontinuities they produced. It then turns to a brief summary of the bureaucratic reforms undertaken as a direct consequence of the attack in order to draw conclusions about the temporality of the aftermath. Questions about what changed, what can be changed and what should be changed are raised in order to ground a series of arguments and commentaries about the philosophical sense of security and insecurity and about the way this is experienced. The chapter closes by admonishing the dangers of the bureaucratic closure so typical of our time, suggesting that bureaucracy does not inoculate against the malady of insecurity but may indeed anaesthetise against it.

in Security after the unthinkable
J. Peter Burgess

This chapter reconstructs the concept of security that will be gradually deconstructed throughout the book. Building on the assumptions of securitisation theory, the chapter develops a selective social history of the concept, with particular emphasis on the Cold War and post-Cold War periods. It was during this period that the discursive power of security, always latent, truly came of age. The chapter maps in detail the new security concept that developed during this period and in particular the considerable changes it quickly underwent at the end of the Cold War. The chapter analyses the new post-Cold War concept that will frame the rest of the book, deeply intertwined with culture, moral values and social and political governance. Starting from the epistemological shift that enters into force around 1989, the chapter details some of the qualities of the new security reality: globalisation, technologisation, industrialisation, mediatisation, etc. It completes the sketch of this new age of security by making the link between security and market liberalism, and the interlinkage between cultural values and security policy. This security and value, coupled with the new threat horizon dominating security thinking, leads the chapter into an analysis of the role of uncertainty, and the way that it leads security decision-makers to operate in relation to a new kind of ethics: making decisions today about unknown dangers tomorrow.

in Security after the unthinkable
J. Peter Burgess

The chapter opens with a general conceptualisation and terrain-mapping of the notion of responsibility in moral, political, social and popular discourses. It then deepens the question by linking the notion to the discourse of accountability that dominates in bureaucratic governance, linking this with the analysis of responsibility advanced by Weber in Economy and Society. The chapter seeks to situate the work of the 22/7 Commission, developed in the previous chapter, in terms of the concept of bureaucratic versus political responsibility. It then engages in a detailed analysis of the act of ‘taking’ responsibility, its meaning and temporality, before turning to the paradoxes of taking responsibility in the Norwegian language. The chapter then applies the critique of responsibility to the Norwegian political class in the period leading up to the publication of the 22/7 Commission report, its link to political culture and values. After mapping the instrumental uses of the notion of responsibility, the chapter expands to encompass the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, and the prickly problem of assigning responsibility for a terrorist act while at the same time insisting on his unaccountable psychological condition.

in Security after the unthinkable
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J. Peter Burgess

The chapter recounts the primary details of the Oslo/Utøya attacks of 22 July 2011 and the basic details about the convicted perpetrator. It sets out the framework for the documentation and analysis of the following chapters. It introduces the key concepts of ‘uncertainty’ and ‘disenchantment’, situating both in the respective literatures and developing the main arguments of the book. The chapter then presents the broad background for the book, first in security theory, then in relation to a development of the concept and practice of bureaucracy. Building on Weber’s concept of bureaucracy and its distinct insertion into the European modernisation process, the chapter joins this classical notion of modern sociology to another less widely used Weberian concept: disenchantment, understood as a disruption of the relation between spiritual and rational experience, and bringing it to bear on the case of Oslo/Utøya. The chapter takes up a number of methodological challenges that need to be addressed before embarking on a full analysis of the chapters to follow. In order to do so, it underscores the epistemological and metaphysical assumptions that lie behind any methodological position. Finally, it addresses the problem of the ‘event horizon’, that is, the notion that certain events, among these terrorist catastrophes, surpass experience and cognition.

in Security after the unthinkable
J. Peter Burgess

The chapter builds upon the premise that the foundation of security is something other and more than technology or instrumental rationality. On the contrary, it argues that security and insecurity stem from a culturally, socially and spiritually grounded relation to the unknown. It suggests that security thinking has been guided by a false notion of objectivity and externality. The chapter then situates this way of understanding security in the context of the new security threats appearing in Europe during the two decades preceding the Oslo/Utøya attacks. It explains that this constellation of threats constitutes the background for the work of the Commission on Vulnerability, formed in 1999, and which produced a landmark report in 2000. The chapter documents the considerable innovation introduced by the Commission, in particular the relation it established between societal values and security. By means of a detailed, point-by-point analysis of the Commission’s report, the chapter establishes both an analytic framework for the value–security relation and a distinct contextualisation of that relation in the Norwegian context.

in Security after the unthinkable
Abstract only
J. Peter Burgess

This chapter continues the reflection on how vulnerability and societal values are linked together to shape insecurity in society. It begins by developing the notion of a societal system that encompasses societal values and societal resources. It focusses in particular on the emergency preparedness plan developed by the Commission on Vulnerability. This development depends on a reflection on the many nuances of societal involvement and societal values, in addition to the great variation in the character of societies around the world, and the question of standardisation that goes with it. The chapter then enters into a theoretical analysis of the role of the societal institutions and the various forms of governance. This leads to an analysis of the widely used ‘three principles of responsibility’. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the ‘reception’ of the news of the 11 September 2001 attack on the US.

in Security after the unthinkable
J. Peter Burgess

This chapter is a comprehensive analysis of the report of the 22/7 Commission, published one year after the attacks. The analysis begins with a discussion of the concept of security used in the report, and in particular the tacit relation assumed between society and security. The chapter begins by focussing on one of the core concepts of the report, ‘defence’, and in particular the defence of the Norwegian ‘we’. This analysis constitutes the foundation for a reflection on the power of concepts, and the conflict of concepts that at times characterises collective crises. The chapter continues with reflection on the social meaning of terrorism and the correlation between societal values and terrorist threat, before turning to a close analysis of the 22/7 Commission’s official mandate. The formulation of the mandate leads to a consideration of the agency of society itself and of the accountability of society as an actor. In this context, it then asks in what way society is accountable or responsible for the damages done to its members, and what kind of ethics and values it can be expected to embody.

in Security after the unthinkable
Terror and disenchantment in Norway

The lone wolf terrorist attack on Oslo and Utøya on 22 July 2011 shook the Norwegian security establishment to its core. But it also disrupted the cultural, social and spiritual self-understanding of ‘the safest country in the world’. All societies find their basic security in the continuity of their national narratives. The origin of this security, indispensable to any society’s well-being, is also its most acute point of vulnerability. By tracing the social and political evolution in security thought and policy in the days, months and years after the Norway attacks, this book shows that the multiple hindsight rationalisations of the attack, coupled with a bureaucratisation of the response, collapsed this myth and with it the most long-standing source of Norwegian security. The book relates the experience of unthinkable disaster to the security that can be conceived of starting from this experience. Is there more insecurity because citizens know what kinds of threats are possible? Or does the experience of threat give the wisdom to know what is dangerous and not dangerous, what is real and unreal? If security is a set of practices directed towards the future, towards future events and potential dangers, then what becomes of security when the future is now and the disaster has happened. Is there useful knowledge to be gained from what we never imagined possible?

J. Peter Burgess

This chapter develops the relation between the experience of extraordinary events such as terrorist attacks and the sense we make of them. Returning to the notion of disenchantment developed in the book’s Introduction, the chapter tries to articulate what an experience of terrorism is and how we are changed by it. It revisits the foundations of what we call experience and asks under what conditions it can be surpassed. The chapter turns to a key experience of the unthinkable in the experience of mourning, before asking to what extent violence in general is implicit in the neoliberal forms of thought that organise our everyday lives, and the links to excess and extremism that they imply. The chapter further deepens the concept of ‘the unthinkable’. It develops the notion of the unthinkable in the direction of aesthetic experience, itself linked to recently developed theories of affect. Insecurity, it is argued, is linked to an experience of senses, which exceeds in vital ways the experience captured by rationality.

in Security after the unthinkable