If agency is a matter of multiple distributions, and those distributions are effected in many different coordinations and contrasts, then to understand the character of agency it becomes necessary to explore the character of these interferences. It becomes important to explore the ways in which they overlap or don’t. And it also becomes impor­tant to explore the Others that are generated in the course of setting up those contrasts—which means, predominantly, the distributions of passivity and their corresponding interferences.

The specific conclusion I want to draw in this chapter is that the performance of technological agency is complex. Perhaps technolo­gies are indeed predominantly characterized by their capacity for action in a series of partially related contrasts. In the present case we have come across a series of pairs: activity and passivity, invulner­ability and vulnerability, transcendence and mundanity, resource­using and constitution as a resource, containment and contained threat, rapist and victim, technical controller and technical outcome, man and woman, and woman and man. All of these are different (in some cases considerably so), but they all tend to perform the tech­nology as an active and controlling agent and to distribute those con­trasts in a way that simultaneously performs the passivity and vul­nerability of (aspects of) nature and culture.

140 Aesthetics I am arguing, then, that the distribution being built by the brochure



One way of insisting on the rigor of "interpretation" is to work with materials that appear side by side. One would look, for instance, to references about gender in the materials under study before making any argument about gendering.

There are no explicit references to gendering in the TSR2 brochure. The austere view is that this renders it impossible to talk of gendering in this context. An alternative view is that this requirement is unnec­essarily restricting: that if we allow only those categories which are to be found in the materials to form part of the analysis then we are limiting the ways in which we may juxtapose materials to generate effects.

The austere response in turn to this is that if we are allowed to juxtapose, for instance, a text by Griselda Pollock (1988) on gendering in pre-Raphaelite and impressionist art with the illustrations in a mid­twentieth-century aircraft brochure, then the effects are of a juxta­position that we have made, which might therefore be made in quite different ways by others: that we are, in short, in danger of seeing what we want to see.

In the context of distributions such as gendering this is an ever­present difficulty: that, so to speak, we know what we are going to find before we start looking. Hey presto, there it is again! The countervail­ing pull is, however, the sense, which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse, that gendering is indeed endlessly performed.

There is no way to resolve this tension. But it is possible to make it more complex by refusing to imagine that gendering is a single dis­tribution, or indeed a limited set of distributions and allocations, but rather is embodied and performed, as Stefan Hirschauer, Annemarie Mol (Hirschauer and Mol 1995), and Ingunn Moser (Law and Moser 1999) suggest, not as gender in the singular but rather in endlessly complex and partially connected genderings and genderings-relevant performances (all ungrammatically but deliberately put in the plural).


is strong precisely because of its complexity. It is a complex of inter­ferences between different and partially connected strategies for dis­tributing agency and passivity. For if the distributions are different, indeed so different that in places they appear to be in direct contra­diction, those contradictions are problematic only if they are brought together. But this does not happen. Often they work to reinforce one another, but because they are distributed, kept apart, even their in­consistencies are not necessarily troubling. In a multiple or a frac­tional world constituted from partial connections,37 there is no great premium on “overall” consistency—for there is no overall viewpoint, no god-eye view. Thus the division between the ‘‘purified’’ realms of the aesthetic and the ‘‘strictly technical’’ is precisely a source of poten­tial power. For if these are said to have nothing to do with one another, then they can work in quite contrary ways to generate mutually sup­porting distributions or singularities. This helps to explain why the aesthetic might be so deeply removed from and subordinated to the technical in modernism and yet also remain so important to it. For the aesthetic entertains contrasts that are impossible within the tech­nical or the pragmatic, contrasts that are discursively inconsistent or outrageous but that often enough work with those of the technical to produce singularity.

So agency, including technical agency, is performed in both techni­cal and aesthetic distributions. But if these strategies for coordination have their specificities (and of course it is consistent with the argu­ment that this is the case) we need to study both.38 It becomes impor­tant to avoid treating the aesthetic as ‘‘merely illustrative’’ while at­tending to what is taken to be ‘‘serious,’’ for to do so is to set draconian and quite unnecessary restrictions on our understanding of the dis­tributions made by technical agency and its Others. But the converse is also true: we also need to attend to that which calls itself‘‘techni – cal.’’ It is important to avoid restrictions that perform purity while, all around us, we are being distributed by impurities in ways that simply pretend to purity.

In short, once again, we are witnesses to the operation of an oscil­lation between singularity and multiplicity, an oscillation that juxta­poses multiplicities in a pattern of interferences that are the neces­sary condition for the strength of singularity thereby generated.

Soyez realiste! Demandez I’impossiblel—Text of French student poster at the time of the 1968 French evenements

S’il y a une tradition quinous singularise, c’est, me semble-t-il, celle quia nom ”politique.” La question de savoir ce qu’est la cite, quiluiappartient, quels droits, quelles responsabilites traduisent cette appartenance, et les mouvements de lutte, inventant des exigences, des obligations et des identi – tes nouvelles, transformant les modes de’appartenance, sont ce quisingular – ise d’abord notre histoire.—Isabelle Stenders, ”Le Medecin et le Charlatan,” in Tobie Nathan and Isabelle Stengers, Medecins et Sorciers


So there are multiplicities, multiple subjects and multiple objects. There are interacting performances. And there are many distribu­tions between subjects and objects. Or simply between different ob­jects. And then there are overlaps, resonances, alignments, coordina­tions, and interferences. Performances, multiplicities, distributions, and interferences come together as a package: it is not possible to talk about one without, at least by implication, talking of the others. And the singularities of ‘‘the modern project’’ arise from the interfer­ences between multiplicities produced in that characteristic oscilla­tion between one and many. Singularities arise even if the interfer­ences and the multiplicities are effaced in deferral—are rarely visible, except perhaps as a technical problem to be addressed and resolved in the next bout of problem solving, the next attempt to render ‘‘truly singular.’’

Подпись: •vjПодпись: DECISIONSIn this chapter I explore the coordinating interferences of politi­cal decision making. I’m interested in capital P Politics, the kind of politics that calls itself‘‘Politics,’’ that makes itself big and important, the methods by which it assures its distributions. And at the same time I am concerned with the overlaps and interferences implied in a notion like ‘‘decision making.’’ My case is the 1965 cancellation of the TSR2 project. Behind schedule and much more expensive than an­ticipated, cancellation, long debated, became a real possibility with the election of a Labour government in late 1964—a government that replaced thirteen years of Conservative administration.

EXHIBIT 7.1”The discussion showed there had been a certain divergence amongst those concerned. James Callaghan, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, wanted to can­cel the plane altogether for purely financial reasons. Ranged against him were (a) Denis Healey, who wanted to cancel the TSR2 and to substitute the American F-111-A, which would mean a certain saving of money but an enormous increase of outlay in dollars; and (b) Roy Jenkins, who wanted to cancel the TSR2 and re­place it with a British plane—which was roughly George Brown’s view as well; and (c) George Wigg, who held the view that we might have to cancel both but we musn’t make any decision until we had finished the strategic reappraisal which would show what kind of plane was required.” (Crossman 1975, 190-91)


Exhibit 7.1 is a record, one of several, of the cabinet meeting that led to the cancellation of the TSR2. It is drawn from the diaries of one of the participants, Cabinet Minister Richard Crossman (1975). Crossman was Minister for Housing in the government at the time of the deci­sion to cancel—though perhaps in saying this I have already given too much away But never mind. Let’s attend to Crossman and what he writes. So what should we make of this?

No doubt there are many possibilities, but first I want to note that this is another distribution. We know the semiotic version of this argument: objects are being made, realities brought putatively into being. It is a performance and not simply a description. So Crossman generates, inter alia, four locations, places, or possibilities, each with its own specific attributes. He achieves this in various ways, but most straightforwardly, he does so by simply arraying them in the form of a list. This maneuver tends, as I shall shortly argue, to perform their equivalence for certain purposes.

What, then, of the specifics of Crossman’s list? It is very impor­tant to say that his array is not idiosyncratic, some kind of invention unique to its author. For if narratives are indeed performative, then it is important to ask how much, to what extent, where, and how, the distributions that they entail are being performed, which implies a series of questions about interference that demand empirically com­plex answers. These answers will have us both attending to the dif­ferences between distributions just as much as their similarities and 144 Decisions referring to material forms quite other than talk.11 shall touch on both

of these issues in what follows. But in the present context we can simply say that Crossman’s division performs, or at any rate assists in the performance of, a version of a distribution that is also being enacted in a wide variety of other locations—and indeed, by a wide variety of participants and observers. It is, in other words, not some strange aberration.

Let me give some examples of other related lists or arrays.

—Though, since it comes from the same source, this is not the strongest form of evidence, a little later in Crossman’s own narra­tive we come across another, similar, distribution (exhibit 7.2).2 —Harold Wilson, who was Prime Minister and chaired the cabinet meeting, performs his own array that roughly coincides with the first two (exhibit 7.3).

—Though exhibit 7.4 does not reproduce the list in full, observers close to Denis Healey, the Defence Minister, describe a choice that maps on to those performed by Wilson and Crossman (exhibit 7.4). —An extract from a Ministry of Defence press statement released on the day the TSR2 cancellation was announced generates a fur­ther distribution that can, again, be related to Crossman’s (exhibit 7.5).

So it is important that these lists perform themselves in ways that tend to overlap—though we will need to attend carefully to the ways

EXHIBIT 7.2 ”In the end, after another confusing discussion, Harold Wilson summed up: there were three possi bilities. Possi bi lity 1 was to cancel TSR2 with­out taking up the American option. Possibility 2 was to cancel while taking up the option. And possibility 3 was to keep TSR2 for the time being and make our final decision after we had finished the strategic reappraisal.” (Crossman 1975, 191)

EXHIBIT 7.3 ”But we had to have a decision, and the Cabinet was called again for 10.00 p. m. By midnight I had to resolve a difficult. . . decision. The Cabi­net was split three ways; some favoured continuing with TSR 2; some favoured its outright cancellation; and the third group supported the Defence Secretary’s view that TSR 2 should go but that its military role should be taken over by an order for American Phantoms, together with one for a number of F 111As.” (Wilson 1971, 89-90)

EXHIBIT 7.4 ”The conclusion that TSR-2 was expendable was made possible be­cause a low-cost substitute exi sted in the high performance multi -mi ssion F-111, which the American government was prepared to sell to Britain. Had this aircraft not been available then TSR-2 might have been saved. One of Healey’s top plan­ners admitted that ‘the F-111 made cancellation of TSR-2 possible.”’ (Reed and Williams 1971, 183)

EXHIBIT 7.5 ”It will not be possible to define. . . [operational] tasks precisely until the defence review is completed later this year. This review may show that the number of aircraft required with TSR.2 performance characteristics may be substantially below the existing TSR.2 programme. On certain hypotheses about long term commitments it might even be possible to re-shape our defences in such a way as to dispense with this type of aircraft altogether. We shall make every effort to see how far existing or planned British aircraft. . . will meet the whole or part of the requirement. In order to ensure that our Services have appropri­ate aircraft in sufficient numbers H. M.G. have secured an option from the United States Government on the F.111A aircraft at a price per aircraft which even on a full scale programme would represent less than half the estimated total TSR.2 research, development and production cost.” (Defence 1965, para. 5) they fail to overlap in due course. It is also important that they over­lap, or don’t, in a number of different locations—though here, to be sure, I have considered only linguistic distributions while the perfor­mance (or otherwise) of dispersal across space and time in alternative materials is equally relevant.

Nevertheless, it is significant that various aircraft—the TSR2 itself, the F111, the F111A, the Phantom, and (here unnamed) British war – planes—keep on reappearing. It’s going to be significant because what we usually think of as decision making—and here Political decision making—may be understood as the performance of certain forms of overlapping distribution. These distributions resemble one another or may at any rate (and the nuance is vital) be made to resemble one another. Though multiple, they share, at least in some measure, cer­tain strategic features, features that help to render them also as sin – gular.3

So what, then, are those strategic features? What are the ‘‘technolo – 146 Decisions gies’’ of decisions, or Political decisions—that make themselves im-

portant? What kinds of distributions do these attempt? These are the questions that I now want to tackle.

The Politics of Decisions 1. Reality and the Disappearance of Fantasy

The first distribution is more than a distribution. It is another of these great dualisms, the performance of a great divide between reality and fantasy. None of the exhibits actually says anything about this, pre­sumably because there is no need to. But look, nonetheless, at the way this is done. For instance, all the exhibits take it for granted that the possibilities on offer are mutually exclusive, that they are in­deed just that, “options’’—which means that decision makers need to make a choice between possible scenarios, with the possibility of one, but only one, future reality. Thus the need for ‘‘hard choices’’ is per­formed for, and by, the British cabinet,4 and the possibility of what the poststructuralists sometimes call ‘‘undecidability’’ disappears. Or, if it doesn’t disappear, it is at least severely circumscribed and treated as a ‘‘technical’’ matter to be dealt with by (temporary) postponement, in the form of deferral that I have already discussed.5 Pursuing more than one option is thus performed as a fantasy.

But even before the four ‘‘options’’ are brought into being, a distri­bution has already taken place, one that frames the list, reduces it.

This is a distribution between that which is possible, and that which is not. For it is perfectly possible to imagine other possibilities, in principle. One might imagine, for instance, keeping TSR2 and buy­ing an American aircraft, or doing away with the whole lot, TSR2 and any of its alternatives, or abandoning NATO, joining the Warsaw Pact and buying Russian aircraft, or, for that matter, abandoning any form of military defense at all. Such options are not inconceivable. But by the time the decision is being considered, these and any other op­tions have been removed from the universe of possibilities or, perhaps more likely, were never conceived as options in the first place. They have thus been performed as imaginary rather than real.6

Fantasy and reality. They say of politics that it is the art of the pos­sible, a place where ‘‘hard decisions’’ are made. But this itself is a per­formative distribution. It is performed in each of the exhibits cited earlier. It is an interference, an overlap. Or it is a coordination. If I were being aggressive I would add that it is also self-serving because Decisions 147

it works to distinguish between so-called “dreamers” and ‘‘realists’’ — in favor of the latter, to be sure, who are thus built up as hard-headed heroes. Perhaps, however, it would be better to say more evenhand- edly that a commitment to the importance of taking ‘‘hard decisions’’ —in Politics as elsewhere—is the art of enforcing the very distinction between reality and fantasy and of insisting on the division as one of the foundations of things. This division, for instance, confines fan­tasy to fairy tales or the dreamier realms of the academy and reality to the world, and then, to be sure, allocates specific possible futures between these two classes.7

So this is an ontological performance—the particular definition of the conditions of possibility that frames and also enacts decision making. For even in performances that make quite different specific allocations to reality and fantasy, that disagree about the reality or otherwise of the possibilities being debated, the great division be­tween reality and fantasy is being performed and sustained—col – laboratively, so to speak.

Debate in High Politics, this performance of the art of the possible, thus turns around boundary disputes: about what might be classed as real and what might not, but never about the existence of the bound­ary itself, or, indeed, the existence of these two great regions.8 So this is the first great distribution, the first coordination, the first great technology of decision making. It is the abolition of the space that exists between fantasy and reality and the abolition of the possibility of living in that space.9

The Politics of Decisions 2. The Disappearing ”Political”

The second overlapping distribution effaces certain forms of being, and then, more importantly, effaces the fact that they have been ef­faced. This, to be sure, is something that has concerned all those who ever wrote about ideology or the one-dimensionality of the political. But the difference is this: I have no particular notion about what is being effaced and I want to make the argument empirically. This jour­ney will take us first into an inquiry about what is not being effaced and how it is distributed. So how does this work?

The answer is that it varies. It may come in discursive, mathemati­cal, tabular, or pictorial form: any of these may generate one form 148 Decisions or another of a list. But if we stick for now with the discursive, then

in the present case each of the exhibits performs relations between a series of options. Each performs relations that distribute these op­tions within the class of realities, distribute them as more or less desirable. It may do so directly as, for instance, in exhibit 7.5, or in­directly and by implication, as in exhibit 7.6.

EXHIBIT 7.6 ”The decision has been taken after a thorough review of all the infor – mati on that can be made available. The basic facts are that the TSR.2 i s too expen­sive and has got to be stopped. The planned programme for the TSR.2 would have cost about £750m. for research, development and production.” (Defence 1965, para. 2)

So such discursive moves operate to rank options. But this is just the beginning, for we are not dealing with a single discourse, a single mode of distribution. Rather, options are being mounted, performed, and ranked in several ways and in several discourses: indeed, within a multidiscursive space. For instance, the last part of exhibit 7.5, and exhibit 7.6 (again taken from the Ministry of Defence press re­lease) both talk of costs. They say that the F111A is cheaper than the TSR2. But the earlier part of exhibit 7.5 argues on quite different, strategic grounds—hinting that under certain circumstances both the TSR2 and the F111A might compare unfavorably with alternative British aircraft10 (a possibility obliquely picked up by Crossman in exhibit 7.7).

EXHIBIT 7.7 ”We are cutting back the British aircraft industry in order to concen­trate on maintaining our imperial position East of Suez. And we are doing that not because we need these bases ourselves but because the Americans can’t defend the Far East on their own and need us there.” (Crossman 1975, 156)

And there are further kinds of discursive distributions, for instance, to do with the viability of the British aircraft industry or the national balance of payments (see exhibit 7.1), but since I am concerned with the similarities and the interferences, we do not need to go into these here. For if each is mobilized to perform difference, to construct and distribute aircraft options, and to rank those options, then this all de – pendsonthevery possibility of comparison. Each difference depends

on making judgments, judgments between options, judgments that depend on their similarity. It thus involves the performance of a series of homogenizing moves. This may sound odd, given that we are deal­ing with one of the most controversial decisions in British defense policy since the Second World War—or, indeed, that we are dealing with a multidiscursive or at least a fractionally discursive rather than a monodiscursive space (a point to which I shall return). Nonetheless, the performance of these differences is framed within the possibility of accountability. It depends on, it could never be mustered without, the performance of a framing of similarity, of singularity.11

Two points.

(1) Decision making tends to perform itself as the cockpit of differ­ence. It is where, as it were, different options are brought together and focused. Nowhere is this clearer than in High Politics, where the dif­ferences that are said to be important are worked out in debate. But though all of this is right, it is right only to the most limited degree be­cause the performance of discursive difference precisely depends on the performance of discursive similarity. The making of difference, the kind of difference performed in decision making, thus demands and rests upon, the possibility of accountable similarity. That which cannot be said, or at any rate cannot be said in the right place, re­moves itself from the place of the Political becoming something quite Other.12

(2) This follows from the first point. If decision making tends to perform itself as the cockpit of important difference, then it performs not only a distribution between what may be said in important places where big decisions are made and what may not, but it also denies that anything ‘‘important’’ (or, for instance, politically serious) has been effaced. In other words, it performs most of the relations in the world as Unspeakable because they are ‘‘technical,’’ a matter of ‘‘detail,’’ or ‘‘aesthetic,’’ or ‘‘personal,’’ or because they belong to the realm of‘‘fic – tion’’ or whatever.

And this is the second great technology of important decision mak­ing, another product of interference and collaborative overlap be­tween different performances. It is one that we have come across in other guises—for instance, in the form of delegation of the pictorial into the ‘‘merely illustrative.” But now we can see that it increases its 150 Decisions size by effacing the fact that it effaces almost everything that might in

another world be counted as important.13 Or, to put it a little differ­ently, in the context of big important Politics it deletes almost all of what we might call ‘‘the political’’ when this is understood as a tex­ture of distributions and distributive possibilities performed in and through all relations.

The Politics of Decisions 3. Collusions about the Importance of Place

Real decision makers are (made) powerful. For instance, they com­mand obedience and, then again, they make ‘‘decisions.’’ Both of these traits imply the performance of further distributions that have to do with agency. For real decision makers are made as agents. They act, and, in the extreme case, they are not acted upon. This may sound obvious but should not be taken for granted—for there are other con­texts in which, for instance, the TSR2 is endowed with the power to act. We have seen circumstances and locations in which the tech­nology, the machine, is performed as mobile, active, virile. We have seen how virility is built by distributing to passivity features of cul­ture such as other agents (the enemy or the home) or parts of nature (such as landmarks or clearings in the woods), which (since the effect is one of contrast) means that these wait, wait to be acted upon by the aircraft.

But this is not what is happening here. The distribution is quite the other way round. It is people, specific people or particular collectivi­ties of people, who are being performed as active. So we have cabinet ministers, these are made to be active. And then we have the cabinet itself, which is certainly being performed as an entity with the power to act. At the same time various aircraft, and in particular the TSR2 (but no doubt such other actors as the F111A) are being rendered pas­sive as they wait for the decisions of cabinet ministers and the cabinet.

Such, at any rate, is one of the distributions being performed in all the early exhibits. Indeed, so thoroughly and pervasively is it being performed (in this world who could imagine an aircraft making a de­cision?) that it is never said in as many words, but simply taken for granted.14

So to talk of‘‘decisions’’ is to perform ‘‘decision makers’—here poli – ticians—as agents. They act, but they also act in the right place at the right time; for otherwise their acts are ineffectual or they are not Decisions 151

“important decisions.’’ And here, to be sure, the right place at the right time means ‘‘the cabinet’’ or (to make similarities out of differ­ences) ‘‘the government” (or ‘‘Her Majesty’s Government”). To borrow a phrase from actor-network theory, these are the obligatory points of passage fashioned to be the center of the political universe, the places through which everything is made to pass.15

This is all very straightforward. Indeed it is obvious to the point of banality. The problem is that its very banality tends to deaden our critical faculties. So we need to remind ourselves that ‘‘the right place’’ and the ‘‘right time’’ are not given in the order of things, but that they are rather conditions of possibility made within sets of rela­tions, generated in difference.16 So, like the other differences we have discussed, powerful places are to be understood as the effects of the interferences between distributive performances, even (or perhaps one might add especially) in the divisions performed by those who do not like what they hear about the decisions emanating from those times and places.

Look, for instance, at the distribution performed in exhibit 7.8, which is a parliamentary motion from the Conservative opposition

EXHIBIT 7.8 ”[I beg to move] that this house deplores the action of Her Majesty’s Government in cancelling the TSR2 project.” (Crossman 1975, 132) party. It objects to the cancellation of the TSR2, which means that indeed it makes a difference. It makes a difference between govern­ment and opposition. But, at the same time, it performs ‘‘Her Maj­esty’s Government” in a way that would excite no dissent from Her Majesty’s Government’s most partisan supporter. So ‘‘Her Majesty’s Government” is being made as an obligatory point of passage, the rele­vant obligatory point of passage. In this way of telling, nowhere else is it right to perform the cancellation of the TSR2: the government is made, assumed, to be the place where it is possible to perform that cancellation, where it is appropriate so to do. And all this is being done in a performance made by the ‘‘loyal opposition.’’

This, then, is the third great interference or overlap that produces important decision making and thus the decisions of High Politics. It 152 Decisions is a performance of place, of sociotechnical location. The effect is to

produce a distribution between center and periphery, and to efface the possibility that there are other locations that might escape the gravitational pull of that center—or, indeed, the possibility that the world might perform itself without the need of special centers. But such a thought is, as they say, a fantasy.

The Politics of Decisions 4. ”Important Decisions” and ”Mere Detail”

Now I encounter a methodological problem. This is because I want to make an argument about discretion. I want to argue that the big places where ‘‘decisions’’ are taken, make themselves, are made, discretion­ary.17 As a part of this I also want to suggest that such places are per­formed as seeing further, that they are turned into places where mat­ters are centered or (to use Bruno Latour’s phrase) ‘‘drawn together’’ (Latour 1990). Or at any rate, I want to say that they are performed as having the capacity to act in a far-seeing discretionary manner, even if they are sometimes said to get it wrong, which is what the Con­servative opposition was claiming about the decision to cancel the TSR2. To use a jargon, they are created as centers of translation or calculation.

Discretion and its performance: look again at exhibits 7.9 and 7.10 (the two form a pair). Crossman’s complaint is that he is a cabinet

EXHIBIT 7.9 ”The papers are full of reports about the TSR2 and discussion of whether we are going to cancel it or not. Day after day I read this in my morning paper but as a member of the Cabinet I know absolutely nothing about it. Even on Thursday when we had Cabinet the issue wasn’t discussed. I read in the papers that it was being discussed in Chequers this weekend, with George Wigg and his pals present and people like me completely excluded.” (Crossman 1975, 132)

EXHIBIT 7.10 ”Actually, I am not against what is going on and I shan’t complain; but it is true that when the issue comes up to Cabinet for final decision, those of us who are not departmentally concerned will be unable to form any opinion at all.” (Crossman 1975, 132) minister and that no doubt he will have to vote about the TSR2 one way or another, but that he is not where the action is (which is a ver­sion of the point made earlier about central places). In particular, he

is complaining that he is not where the necessary information is to be found, which means that he is not being performed as a proper, dis­cretionary, decision maker, someone who can take an overview and weigh up the merits of the options. He will not (he says somewhat in­consistently, having just expressed a quite specific view) be able to form ‘‘any opinion at all.’’

So Crossman describes something about the proper performance of discretion and its location, and performs himself in a different, nondiscretionary place. But once again these performances overlap, for there are endless examples allocating discretion to the cabinet, to government. For instance in exhibit 7.8, the censure of the opposi­tion assumes that the government could have acted otherwise and re­tained the TSR2. So, though the difference between government and opposition is real enough, it rests upon the performance of a shared assumption: that the government indeed has discretion in this matter.

But what is the methodological problem? The methods by which cabinet ministers or cabinets are generated as discretionary centers of calculation is difficult to uncover and would require a study unlike the one I’m attempting here. The two points are somewhat related, but I will deal with the second first.

The problem may be succinctly stated. We are here located in the public domain and are watching the performance of a more or less public Politics. To be sure, the boundary between what is ‘‘public’’ and what is “confidential” is a construction (I explored a closely re­lated distinction in chapter 2) and is, even when built, always blurred and subject to renegotiation (Crossman’s diaries record and repro­duce discussions that are scarcely ‘‘public’’). Nevertheless, what I am not doing here is offering the ethnographic or historical material that would be needed to show how the space of discretion—the various aircraft options—is built. I’m not exploring how the discursive ar­guments that rank them are constructed as an effect of the distribu­tions recursively performed within the networks of the administra­tive apparatus. Instead, I am simply reproducing a very small portion of that apparatus, which, let it be noted, in some measure reproduces the position in which the discretionary cabinet ministers find them­selves as they wade through their briefs (see exhibit 7.11 which is by the Ministry of Defence Chief Scientific Advisor).

154 Decisions This, then, is the first version of the methodological problem. I am

EXHIBIT 7.11 ”A few weeks after. .. [Denis Healey] took over, he asked me. . . for a personal appreciation of the TSR2 project, of which, when in opposition, he had been highly critical. As a basis, I used the report that I had prepared for Watkin – son [an earlier Minister of Defence], amending it in accordance with what I had learned in the three years that had followed, and consulting only my own files. Healey went over the report line by line, with me at his side, and in my mind’s eye I can still see him underlining passages.” (Zuckerman 1988, 219) neither in the right place nor undertaking the right kind of study if I want to tell stories about the administrative performance of the cabi­net as a center of translation or explore the performative character of what is sometimes referred to as ‘‘governmentality.’’18

But there is a second and more interesting way of conceiving of the difficulty. This is to say that I am running aground on another distri­bution that is relevant to the performance of decision making—and in particular the decision making of High Politics. Indeed, the traces of such a difficulty are not hard to find in what I have been talking about. For instance, I mention ‘‘the public domain’’ and contrast this with what is “confidential”; and then I talk of the need for a ‘‘detailed’’ ethnographic or historical study; and finally I refer to the ‘‘adminis­trative apparatus.’’ But these are distributive tropes that come straight out of the discourses that perform a centered version of High Politics.

And, like the other instances we have looked at, they perform their distributions asymmetrically in at least two different ways.

First, the division between the public and the confidential operates to (try to) conceal almost everything that might be said about the basis of government and, in particular, about the way in which High Politi­cal discretion is generated. True, as mentioned earlier, the boundary between the public and what is ‘‘properly’’ confidential is permeable.

Crossman’s diaries breach the divide (though they did not do so at the time the events were taking place). And, more generally, the talk of ‘‘leaks’’ bears witness to the frequency with which the divide is breached. But this very way of talking strengthens my point because it also performs the division between that which should be public and that which should not. For (as is obvious) a leak is matter out of place, a displacement of secret fluid that should have stayed in its

container.19 Decisions 155

Second, the division between political decision making and ad­ministration operates, in a hierarchical manner, to distinguish be­tween that which is Politically important in terms of Big Decisions, and that which is not. “Operations,” “administration,” “accountancy,” “technology,” these are terms of contrast. They stand in contrast with ‘‘Political decision making,’’ and this is a contrast that works in at least two ways. First, it works to efface the politically distributive character of technology, administration, and all the rest by implying that these are essentially nonpolitical. This reproduces another version of one of the distributions discussed earlier—the performance of a narrow and specific version of the political, one that indeed limits itself to High Politics. And second (which perhaps amounts to much the same thing) it relegates that which is not told as important decision making to a ghetto, a ghetto that is henceforth called ‘‘detail.’’ We have en­countered this before in several different forms, for instance, in the division between technics and aesthetics and in the organization of the brochure. But this time the divide is posed, at least in part, in terms of interest. It is posed in terms of what counts as interesting and what does not. This argument tells of and performs the command­ing heights of Political decision making while relegating to the distant foothills of detail such routine matters as administration, technology, or illustration.

Discretion and discretionary places are created in a ramifying net­work of representational distributions. They do not exist in and of themselves. But the way in which such representational distributions perform discretion is in large measure concealed, performed as non­political, and imagined as essentially uninteresting technical ‘‘detail.’’ So this is the fourth distribution of decision making, another place of overlap and interference. It is the performance of a distinction be­tween means and ends that graces important decisions, including those of High Politics, with a special place at the top of the greasy pole where the big and important decisions are taken, while effacing all the routines, the politics, that make this distribution possible in the first place.20

Tabular Hierarchy

Look now at exhibit 2.8, which reproduces the table of contents of the brochure. This makes more links, coordinates further versions of the TSR2. But how does it produce its coordinating effects?

Michel Foucault offers us the classic response. A table constitutes and juxtaposes components in a two-dimensional array. It generates 18 Objects new forms of visibility, new visual relations, which means that it cre-

EXHIBIT 2.7 Brochure Cover (British Aircraft Corporation 1962; © Brooklands Museum)


EXHIBIT 2.8 Contents (British Aircraft Corporation 1962, 3;

© Brooklands Museum)


Tabular HierarchyTabular Hierarchy

ates a subject position that escapes the linearity and the syntax of text by virtue of its construction as an overall vantage point. This means, to use another metaphor, that a table draws things together. It draws them together by juxtaposing them spatially and by assuming, in that juxtaposition and ordering, that they are in some way linked. It thus performs the assumption that the different elements listed are simi-

lar in kind. And in the present instance, if one makes the link back to the framing of the brochure, that they concern the TSR2 in one way or another.

So the table implies and performs a form of coordination. When nouns and the different specific object positions appear in a list or a table, they are being made to go together. But this is simply a first step. For in the present instance at least, these relations of visual simulta­neity also perform relations of hierarchy. Components of the table, its elements, are being coordinated in ways that assure their asymmetry. Thus, it is not simply that what become the more important features of the object tend to come in the earlier pages of the brochure (though this is certainly one of the effects being achieved, both in the table of contents and in the overall structure of the publication). It is also that the elements in the table are ranked into three different levels. There are the three main sections, on “Performance,” “Operations,” and “Engineering”; a number of subsections, such as ‘‘Aircraft Perfor­mance,” ‘‘Radii of Action,’’ and ‘‘Ground Equipment’’; and then there are subsections to those subsections, which have to do with objects such as ‘‘fire protection’’ or ‘‘system test equipment.’’

So the table of contents, by virtue of its visible organization, not only homogenizes, not only proposes that everything in the table somehow or other goes together, but also makes a hierarchy in three levels. This means that the table of contents is like an organizational chart or an arborescence:5 the various elements are being defined, performed, and indeed guaranteed. Smaller parts are being ‘‘in­cluded” in the larger sections. They become specific ‘‘aspects” of larger unities—and, no doubt, of the TSR2 aircraft as a whole. Thus the reader is readily able to see that what has now become ‘‘the top” depends on, or is composed by, the links between a series of more specific components that have their role to play in the system ‘‘as a whole.”

In short, the table is a third strategy for coordinating disparate ob­jects and relating them together to form a unity. And the particular alchemy of the table is the way in which it returns, constantly, to that which is made central—ultimately, though here implicitly, the TSR2 — and performs what, echoing Jacques Derrida’s concern with necessary slippage (1978), one might think of as strategic deferral, for 20 Objects that which is left out is performed as ‘‘detail,’’ as ‘‘technical detail.’’

Note that the logic of strategic deferral—and the way in which it produces subject and object centering—extends beyond the covers of the brochure. For if this is only sixty pages long, then much must be excluded from its pages and deferred because it is ‘‘less impor­tant” or ‘‘relevant’’ than what is mentioned. Nevertheless (and here is the assumption of this strategy for coordinating, which is also a guarantee), it might be unpacked if the curious chose to look at “sup­plementary documentation” in some ‘‘technical manual’’ for reasons that are made to be good because, for a complex object such as an air­craft, it is important to perform links that are many layers down the hierarchical-technical system.

To summarize: the table, its structure, and its deferrals produce a hierarchy that generates a subject that has focus but also a coordi­nated object, one that hangs together because it has been constituted as a set of hierarchically related parts or aspects that combine to pro­duce a unitary whole.6


So we are dealing in multiplicity. Multiple forms for object positions.

Multiple styles of subject positions, interpellations. Donna Haraway (1994, 62) observes: ‘‘Optical metaphors are unavoidable in figuring technoscience.’’ And a few sentences later notes that ‘‘my favourite optical metaphor is diffraction—the noninnocent, complexly erotic practice of making a difference in the world, rather than displacing the same elsewhere’’ (Haraway 1994, 63).

Here I have made five forms of narrative, suggested five styles for making the interpellations of subject positions and object positions, five modes of distributing. These are the story forms that I have iden­tified: plain history, policy, ethics, the esoteric, and the aesthetic. I have, to be sure, made them unrealistically discrete. I wouldn’t pro­pose for one moment that they are fixed, unbridgeable, or primitive.

And even if one sticks with the labels, clearly they don’t represent in­variant and unchanging modes of interpellation. They are products of particular material-semiotic circumstances. But in the present con­text I have set the narratives up in this way, as discrete and separate, because I am interested in the ways in which they interfere with one another. In particular, this makes it easier to see that though they may individually make more or less coherent subject positions, something different starts to happen when several of them are juxtaposed. For when they start to interact with one another to generate complex pat­terns of interference, they also start to make subjects, readers, and au­thors that may be places of illumination when the wave patterns are coherent, but which may be places of darkness when they are not— when the wave patterns cancel one another out.

It is, of course, possible to make the argument in many ways. But here I want to link it to the formation of subjectivity. To the formation or the performance of what I hope we are no longer so disposed to think of as ‘‘the personal.”

So the story runs thus. In 1989 these patterns of narrative coalesced in a particular way to interfere with one another and make a place of darkness. They overlapped to produce a series of mutually destruc­tive interpellations, conflicting subject positions, a place where there was no possibility of writing, reading, or knowing.

I was writing history. This was the first interpellation. But it wasn’t ‘‘just history,’’ not in the way I imagined it. For plain history was never Subjects 59

the strongest form of interpellation for an author made as a sociolo­gist or a student of technoscience rather than a historian. So it was a prelude to what? I thought I was writing history as a prelude to a particular academic narrative, a story about human and nonhuman agents. So that was the second interpellation, the recognition or con­struction of a subject by an esoteric discourse: in this case the narra­tive of actor-network theory. But my high-status interviewees imag­ined that I was writing history, making my inquiries as a prelude to something quite different: a judgment of policy, a judgment about the worthiness of the project. So they thought I was going to write about whether or not it was well managed, what had gone wrong, why it had been canceled and, perhaps most important, whether or not it should have been canceled. This was a third interpellation and it was one that was powerful. It was an effect of what is sometimes called ‘‘studying up’’ and felt like a form of colonization.

So there were three simultaneous interpellations—but two of them were interfering with one another. The writer constituted as esoteric specialist and the writer as policymaker; in this context the two did not fit.29 So that was the first interference pattern. A place of dark­ness. But it was not the only one. There was also a resistance deriving from another story form, a long-ago story form, a story to do with the waste of military spending. This was a form of being that reflected and embodied a horror of nuclear weapons. Perhaps it was an ethical discourse that had been almost buried, long ago cleansed from other narrative forms, from those to do with either the esoteric or matters of policy. So what form did the interference take? I found I could not perform policy. I could not, that is, perform the kind of policy that judged the TSR2 in terms of its (how to say it?) efficacy with respect to military strategy or procurement policy. This was the point at which I stopped. I could not make that final move. Interpellation as a policy narrator interfered, though in different ways, with both esoteric and ethical subject positions.

Interpellation, diffraction, and interference, a moment of darkness, destructive—or at least immobilizing—subject multiplicity.30

Can we imagine this as “inauthenticity”? I don’t know, for certainly in a world of multiplicity there is no ‘‘core,’’ no last instance, no soul, no ultimately centered subject. Which means that authenticity, if that is what it is, rather has to do with the relations between narratives,

of the relations between different forms of obviousness, between the obviousnesses performed in different but related subject positions.

And what of the question of aesthetics? This was another form of interference, I think, for there is a pleasure in aircraft.

No. Let me be careful. Some of us, some of the time, some subject positions, are constituted to find various kinds of pleasure in rela­tion to machines, flying machines, and even killing machines. That is a whole other set of narratives, ways of talking and being that are pressed, or so I’d want to suggest, to the margins, in the narrative forms that I’ve mentioned above. My conclusion is that some version or other of machinic pleasure was what interpellated me one day, in RAF Cosford, in 1985, and then hid itself again. Which is some kind of answer as to why I ‘‘chose’’ to study TSR2 when I might have chosen to study so many other technologies.31


This chain of distributive differences is complex, but we don’t need to look into all of its ramifications. Retracing one line will do, one set of dis/connections.

Gust response, G, was fixed. It was fixed in a relation of materiality, material heterogeneity, the absence/presence of the sweating pilots. And Mach number, M, it turned out, was also fixed—because OR 339 said so. And why did OR 339 say so? In order to minimize the effect of enemy defenses. And the final set of dis/connections? The enemy turned out to be ‘‘the Russians’’ and the defenses ‘‘an efficient low level surface to air guided weapon.’’ Which means that ‘‘fear’’ and ‘‘the Russians’’ are not simply outside the formalism but also within it.

None of this is empirically extraordinary. In tracing this chain we’re not learning anything startling about the design of the P.17A. But we have learned something more about heterogeneity. We’ve learned that the enemy is within, that it is within the design, within the formal­ism. And the chain spells out one of the ways in which the enemy has been incorporated and assimilated.

This is another form of heterogeneity, another oscillation in differ­ences that are both absent and present. For the enemy and its surface – to-air guided weapons are a part of the formalism, a part of the wing design, rigorously present. At the same time, like the extended for­malism and the bodies of the pilots, they are just as rigorously absent. So this is a third form of heterogeneity, the heterogeneity of tellable Otherness. The enemy excluded, the foe that is necessary, necessarily included, necessarily a part of the center, necessarily Other.

Подпись: FIGURE 5.5 Подпись: Present/ Absent Подпись: Absent/ Present Подпись: Russians


Подпись: Enemy Defenses
Подпись: Surface- to-Air Guided Missiles
Подпись: They deserve to be forbidden, excluded, kept at the periphery. Or, in the language of defense, they deserve “interdiction.” So Otherness is a dangerous absence. But, at the same time, it is a promise, a seduction, a necessity, an incorporation, a need incorporated in its absence into the semiotics of presence. It is incorporated, for instance, into speed, M, and into the formalism linking gust response, G, to M. For without this incorporation, M might take any value. The wing of the P.17A might take a different shape. And the RAF's need for “a new aircraft'”? Well, this too would look different, would disappear altogether. Heterogeneity/Otherness. This is a third form of heterogeneity. It says that the forbidden, the abhorrent, sometimes even the unspeakable, is both present in and absent from whatever is being done, de-

“The Other”: this is a threat. The air force officers who write opera­tional requirements talk in just those terms. In their work they speak of “the threat.” “The Russians and their surface to air guided weapons” are like Edward Said’s Orientals (1991). They are necessary to the West, to its making of itself because they are dangerous, different, and antithetical. They play a similarly ambivalent role. For they are indeed a threat, a danger, something apart and something to be kept apart.

Подпись: Otherness
Подпись: The Other.7 That which cannot be assimilated. That which is essential. Constitutive. Where is the Other? How is the distribution between self and Other made? Perhaps it is denied or repressed? Perhaps it is a technical problem waiting for resolution? Perhaps it is beyond the borders? For instance in the heterotopic places in Foucault's large schemes. The Palais Royale in pre-Revolu-tionary France. But suppose there were no large schemes, no big blocks. Suppose instead that there were lots of little schemes. If there were lots of little schemes then there would be lots of little Othernesses. Othernesses within. Many of them. Interfering with one another. Perhaps this is what absence/presence is about. In part.

signed, or said.8 Fear is distributed as an absent presence in the center, in the formalism.



Earlier I suggested exhibit 2.1 is perspectival in character. But so too are exhibits 2.9 and 2.10. It is clear to all but the naive reader that these are pictures of the same object. In other words, we are justified in de­tecting the operation of yet another strategy for coordinating possibly different objects—that of perspectivalism.

I shall have more to say about this later, so let me just note for the moment that perspectivalism assumes a world that is Euclidean in character; that is, it assumes that the world is built as a three­dimensional volume occupied by objects. These objects, which in – Objects 21

EXHIBIT 2.10 Front View (British Aircraft Corporation 1962, 2;

© Brooklands Museum)



elude a variety of positions for viewing, have locations and (at any rate in the case of objects) themselves occupy three-dimensional vol­umes.

This is why when we look at individual perspectival drawings of the kind in exhibits 2.9 and 2.10, we tend to see a three-dimensional object, for instance an aircraft, rather than some lines on a sheet of paper. The theory of linear perspective holds that we project the lines that appear on the paper in such a drawing back into a Euclidean vol­ume of space. That volume is occupied by a three-dimensional object that would, had it been located in such a space, have traced itself onto a two-dimensional surface in a way that corresponds with the lines on the sheet of paper. Thus in linear perspective a viewer or subject position is made that ‘‘sees’’ an ‘‘object,’’ the aircraft, even though it sees only a sheet of paper. Or, to put it differently, what is on the sheet of paper tends to produce the sense of an object because it helps to reproduce a Euclidean version of reality.

Furthermore, and an important part of this strategy, different per- spectival sketches are easily coordinated within the system. There is a formal projective geometry for saying this, but let me put it infor­mally. One of the Euclidean assumptions of perspectivalism is that a single three-dimensional object can generate multiple two-dimen­
sional perspectival depictions. Objects, the same objects, simply look different if we look at them from different standpoints. And this is what is happening here. The coordinating assumption is that there is an aircraft, the TSR2, and that it is fixed in shape. That singular fixity will generate all sorts of possible two-dimensional perspectival configurations. So long as the depictions conform to these configu­rations and do not demand an impossible three-dimensional object, then we tend to see the same three-dimensional object when we look at different perspectival drawings, as we do here.