Governing uncertainty, producing subjectivity: from Mode I to Mode II scenarios

Limor Smimian-Darash*, Michael Rabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tracing the emergence of the scenario technology and key shifts in how it is used, we argue that scenarios represent a new way of governing future uncertainty. We analyse two of the most influential approaches to the technology—those of Herman Kahn and Pierre Wack. In the first, scenarios emerge as a solution to an ontological problem of future uncertainty—a solution that seeks to use imagination as a form of reasoning about the future (Mode I scenarios). In the second, however, scenarios appear as a solution to an epistemological problem—a way of challenging and changing perceptions, of remediating one’s perception of the world and accepting its uncertainty. That is, scenarios become a way of entering into an uncertain sensibility and a particular mode of experience and practice related to and centred on uncertainty—a new mode of subjectivation. We refer to this as Mode II scenarios.

Original languageAmerican English
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.


  • Governmentality
  • Scenarios
  • Subjectivity
  • Uncertainty


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