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Society of Control

In his Postscript on the Societies of Control (1990), Gilles Deleuze expands on Michel Foucault’s disciplinary societies, which “initiate the organization of vast spaces of enclosure.”

Program

The conception of a control mechanism, giving the position of any element within an open environment at any given instant (whether animal in a reserve or human in a corporation, as with an electronic collar), is not necessarily one of science fiction. Felix Guattari has imagined a city where one would be able to leave one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighborhood, thanks to one’s (dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that tracks each person’s position—licit or illicit—and effects a universal modulation.

The socio-technological study of the mechanisms of control, grasped at their inception, would have to be categorical and to describe what is already in the process of substitution for the disciplinary sites of enclosure, whose crisis is everywhere proclaimed.

(Gilles Deleuze)

Thirty years later, this text appears of incredible acuity to describe surveillance capitalism currently at work.

The task is now to identify “the progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of domination,” a two-faced totalitarian corporatism; the establishment of a new authority, the platform state.