Control Societies (Wordhole)

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Gilles Deleuze discusses the concept of a society of control in his 1992 text 'Postscript on the Societies of Control'. Societies of control are governed by codes, which give access or bar individuals from flows of information, at "informational intersections" and, as a result, the subject flows “in a continuous network.” Deleuze contrasts control societies with disciplinary societies, as theorised by Foucault, which are governed by the control of discreetly defined spaces through the execution of social protocols. However, control societes, Deleuze argues, are distinct from disciplinary societies (as theorised by Michel Foucault) but in connection to them, as their immediate development after WWII. Control societies are reforming the institutions of disciplinary societies, including prisons, hospitals and schools, but one can go further and think of how eg. genetic engineering or pharmaceutical research is conducted. Reflecting on Foucalt's analysis of disciplinary societies, Deleuze reminds us that subjects in disciplinary societies are constituted on the basis of two axes: 'number' and 'signature', and are tangible and clearly witnesses in our society. These organising principles are of less importance within control societies and instead codes are implemented. Such codes govern who can access what. This is especially evident not only in the end-barrier but in the systems of tracking and actual control that defines whether one qualifies to cross a barrier. Some methods of control, that could have been borrowed from previous societies of sovereignty, are becoming interchangeable. At the time the essay was written, Deleuze could already perceive a crisis of the institutions as new mechanism of controls were being installed and implemented in different types of systems: school, prison, hospital and corporate. The question that arose was how unions would survive the advent of new, harmful forms of societies of control.

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Collective Annotation of Postscript on the Societies of Control:

Subgroup Annotation of Postscript on the Societies of Control:

Citation: Mentioned in: Deleuze, G., Postscript on the Societies of Control (1992)