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