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Robert Castel “From Dangerousness to Risk”

Castel, Robert 1991. From Dangerousness to Risk. – Burchell, Graham; Gordon, Colin; Miller, Peter (eds). The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press: 281-298.

The new strategies dissolve the notion of a subject or a concrete individual, and put  in  its  place  a  combinatory  of factors,  the  factors  of risk. […] The essential component of intervention no longer takes  the  form  of the  direct face-to-face  relationship  between  the  carer and the cared, the helper and the helped, the professional and the client. It comes instead  to  reside in the  establishing  of flows  of population  based on the collation of a  range  of abstract factors deemed liable to  produce risk in general. (281)

The examination of the  patient  tends  to  become  the examination of the  patient’s  records  as  compiled  in  varying  situations  by  diverse professionals and specialists interconnected solely through the circulation of individual  dossiers. (281-282)

For classical  psychiatry,  ‘risk’  meant essentially  the  danger  embodied  in the  mentally  ill  person  capable  of  violent  and  unpredictable  action. Dangerousness  is  a  rather  mysterious  and  deeply  paradoxical  notion, since  it  implies  at  once  the  affirmation  of a  quality  immanent  to  the subject  (he  or  she  is  dangerous),  and  a  mere  probability,  a  quantum  of uncertainty, given that the proof of the danger can only be  provided after the  fact,  should  the  threatened  action  actually  occur. (283)

Hence the  special unpredictability  attributed to the  pathological  act:  all  insane  persons,  even  those  who  appear  calm, carry~a threat, but one whose realization still remains a matter of chance. (283)

Such  a  shift  becomes  possible  as  soon  as  the  notion  of  risk  is  made autonomous  from  that  of danger.  A  risk  does  not  arise  from  the  presence  of particular precise danger embodied in a concrete individual or group. It is the  effect of a  combination of abstract factors  which render more  or less probable  the occurrence  of undesirable  modes  of behaviour. (287)

One  does  not  start  from  a  conflictual  situation  observable  in experience,  rather one  deduces  it from  a  general  definition of the  dangers one  wishes  to  prevent. (288)

These preventive policies thus promote a new mode of surveillance:  that of systematic  predetection.  This  is  a  form  of surveillance,  in  the  sense  that the  intended  objective  is  that  of  anticipating  and  preventing  the emergence  of  some  undesirable  event:  illness,  abnormality,  deviant behaviour,  etc.  But  this  surveillance  dispenses  with  actual  presence, contract,  the  reciprocal  relationship  of watcher  and  watched,  guardian and  ward,  carer  and  cared. (288)

What the  new  preventive policies  primarily  address  is  no  longer individuals  but  factors,  statistical correlations  of heterogeneous  elements. […] Their primary aim is  not  to  confront a concrete  dangerous situation,  but  to  anticipate  all  the  possible  forms  of irruption of danger. (288)

1)      The separation of diagnosis and treatment, and the transformation of the caring function into an activity of expertise;

2)      The total subordination of technicians to managers. (290-291)

Instead of segregating and eliminating  undesirable  elements  from  the  social  body,  or  reintegrating them  more  or  less  forcibly  through  corrective  or  therapeutic  inter-ventions,  the  emerging tendency is  to  assign  different  social  destinies  to individuals  in  line  with  their  varying  capacity  to  live  up  to  the requirements  of competitiveness  and profitability.

But  one  has  to  ask  whether,  in  the  future,  it  may  not  become technologically feasible  to programme populations themselves,  on the basis of an  assessment  of  their  performances  and,  especially,  of  their  possible deficiencies.

[…] it would be possible thus  to objectivize absolutely any type  of difference, establishing on the basis of such a factorial definition a differential  population  profile. (294)

The  profiling  flows  of population  from  a  combination  of characteristics  whose collection depends on  an epidemiological method suggests  a rather  different  image  of  the  social:  that  of  a  homogenized  space composed of circuits laid out in advance, which individuals are invited or encouraged  to  tackle,  depending  on  their  abilities.  (In  this  way,  marginality itself, instead of remaining an  unexplored or rebellious  territory, can  become  an  organized  zone  within  the  social,  towards  which  those persons  will  be  directed  who  are  incapable  of  following  more  com-petitive  pathways.) (295)

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