Politics in the Age of Control

Newman, Saul. 2009. Politics in the Age of Control. In: Mark Poster and David Savat, eds. Deleuze and New Technology. Edinburgh University Press, pp. 104-122. ISBN 978 0 7486 3338 8 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In his ‘Postcript on the Societies of Control’ , Gilles Deleuze diagnoses a new mode of control that pervades contemporary societies, surpassing the societies of enclosure and discipline so rigorously explored by Foucault. According to Deleuze, the old disciplinary paradigms are in the process of breaking down – or at least are undergoing a fundamental transformation: the control of individuals is no longer confined to the walls of the prison, school, factory or hospital, but rather spills out into other social spaces, functioning now as a free-floating, modulated form of surveillance made possible through the most sophisticated technologies. Little escapes its grasp, and yet this is a control which presupposes a certain freedom of movement and choices, thus immersing itself within the very fabric of ‘liberal’ societies.

My purpose here is to explore the political implications of this new technology of control. The emergence of the control society is something that is coextensive with, I would suggest, the paradigm of bio-politics, as well as the global hegemony of neo-liberal capitalism. Moreover, techniques and practices of control have been intensified and given greater ideological consistency through the so-called ‘war on terrorism’ whose dark potentialities we have seen unfolding over recent years. However, we could equally say that such developments have themselves been made possible through the diverse techniques, practices and technologies of control – technologies which have placed themselves in the service of both capitalism and the state. In any case, I will argue that societies of control mark a certain transformation in politics, coinciding with, as Jacques Rancière would say, the age of postpolitics, where a dull, media-managed and technocratic consensus seems to have replaced the ideological conflicts of the past, and where the line between public and private domains becomes indiscernible. However, the reign of post-politics and the society of control does not mean the end of politics, only its reconfiguration. The central question, then, is what new forms of politics can take place in societies of control – and, in particular, what new forms of politics are needed to resist them. I will suggest here that a different ‘micropolitics’ is called for, one that is no longer organised around the themes of identity and difference, but rather around anonymity and ‘dis-identification’.

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Date Deposited:

09 Sep 2010 14:49

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30 Jun 2017 12:21



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