The Globalization of Safety Regimes: The Return of Space
This chapter illustrates the diffusion of a unique security regime wherein the principle and practice of "premium insurance," was distinguished by the fact that it was clearly identifiable as a new and different system resting on a purely cultural substrate. It is not a technical tool or machine, but is based solely on ideas-in particular, on ideas about the "future," a specific writing system, and the application of a few basic political and social accounting "rules" such as the law of "large
... umbers." In some respects, premium-based insurance is therefore a product that is easily transferable across cultures; in other ways, however, its cultural character makes it more difficult to transfer than a simple technical instrument. If one controls the means and requirements of production, a mechanical tool as an artifact is only loosely bound to a cultural context. As long as there are pens, paper, and corresponding writing systems, the abstract and "impalpable" idea of insurance is, in principle, quite easily transferable; but it is also much more tightly integrated within a system of cultural hermeneutics and, therefore, is also burdened with substantial invisible barriers. Historically, these barriers were bound up with the transition to modern forms of security regimes, in ways that will be further specified-after all, even the early capitalist premium-based insurance of the Renaissance marked a difference from older economic styles-but they were also intertwined with cultural differences. Through the process of globalization, these temporal/ epochal and cultural/ spatial movements and resistances to transfer became increasingly intermingled. It would be tempting to begin with a section on "Europeanization": Even when different cultures were encountered in the early modern era there were obstacles to the transfer of insurance and even cases of backward development: I have noted above instances of the European-Ottoman encounter referred to in the literature, with effects on the import and decline of premium insurance business on islands occupied by either Venetians or by Ottomans. Similarly, I noted that the institutionalized (fire) insurance model in no way simply proceeded unobstructed through space and time, as for instance, it advanced not at all in France.1 The British insurance model thus began to make strides on the European continent only relatively lately, in the 1810s and 1820s, when private 1 Cf. above Ch. 4, 2.3, notes 202, 221.