(Mis)adventures in Rumsfeld space

Matthew G. Hannah

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10 Citations (SciVal)


Ewald’s recent genealogy of constructions of risk in Western societies argues that the 1980s saw an important paradigm shift to the “precautionary principle”. Critical scholars have taken up this idea as a lens through which to interpret the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’. I argue that 11 September 2001 actually brought about qualitative changes to this paradigm. Bush’s pre-emptive doctrine is driven, and perhaps even more importantly, continually justified to the US population, by what might be called the “trans-precautionary principle”, a move from “decisionism” to “actionism”, and a new radicalization of the way fear is produced and managed. Donald Rumsfeld’s famous typology of different articulations of knowledge and ignorance offers an excellent analytical window onto the connections between ignorance, fear and geopolitical action in this new regime. In the latter part of the essay, his four modes of knowledge/ignorance are arrayed, for heuristic purposes, in an abstract spatial grid organized along dimensions of the specificity and possession of knowledge. This allows a ‘mapping’ of some of the Bush administration’s more controversial strategies in the ‘war on terror’, as a set of different pathways through Rumsfeld Space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-406
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Early online date07 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010


  • war on terror
  • precautionary principle
  • risk
  • geopolitics
  • rumsfeld


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