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.