GILLES DELEUZE - POSTSCRIPT ON THE SOCIETIES OF CONTROL
The text is rooted in Foucault's work on disciplinary societies.
Disciplinary societies prevailed from the XVIIIth to the XXth century. They organized humans into society through their enclosure in distinct impermeable environments such as "school", "family", "army", "factory", and “jail". This regulated the activities and behaviours of the citizens through discourse. As they were entering those enclosures, they were adopting certain protocols, adapting to a certain level of conformity.
Foucault has highlighted the characteristics of their environment, how they "distribute in space", "order in time".
According to Foucault this model of society came after the societies of Sovereignty, which used to tax rather than distribute and administrate.
We have started leaving this model behind us. The barriers between the different environment keep crumbling. We have reached a crisis in our relation to these environments. There is no enclosure anymore, as a consequence no interior nor exterior, despite the accelerated rhythm of reforms aiming to maintain the reassuring sensation of choice and stability of the surroundings (of the schools, of the prisons, of the hospitals, of any system of enclosure we still want to identify).
Although we know that these institutions are over. And we agree to decide so. We are working on it on some ways.
Burroughs suggested the word "control" to name the new forces applying to us. Paul Virilio has also evoked the ultra rapid forms of free-floating control composing the new substitute to the time framed closed systems.
To Deleuze there is no need to morally evaluate the models but just to look for resistance tools, for "weapons", a form of counter power to establish some sort of balance.
Societal activities get dissociated from the places they used to relate to.
We can work from home and study online. We become more and more self-taught. We can also progressively get away from jail thanks to electronic monitoring bracelets. Bank employees redirect us towards online solutions to our issues. Our shopping can be done through web applications enabling us to avoid the social awkwardness of the supermarkets.
One other interesting thing is, in my experience, that the military service aimed to boys was replaced in 1998 by the Journée d'appel de préparation à la défense, replaced recently by the new formula: the Journée défense et citoyenneté (Defense and citizenship day).
The new program is divided into three modules entitled: "you are a citizen", "you have to face an unstable world", "you have a role to play".
During these one-day sessions held by the army, young adults between 16th and 18th get tested on their level of literacy, but also learn about why we need to maintain a level of dissuasive military defense (against an invisible/unpredictable threat perhaps). You also get encouraged to get involved
This day is an obligation for every citizen. The quick evolution of its model makes it appear as a transition manœuvre.
Enclosures and moulds and controls are a modulation, self-deforming cast. Corporations have replaced factories.
In the factories people were forming a whole body, the counter power opposing the authorities was constituted of the unions, bodies of people. Salary was "based on merit", motivating the collective performance in the labour of production. This way of functioning could also be applied to educative systems where you were getting good grades on performance at the examinations. People were opposed but evaluated on the same scale. There was no “case by case”. But little by little we have started to emphasize more the personal trajectories of the individuals. Continuous control is replacing the examinations, like "perpetual training" without discontinuity while in disciplinary societies we were dividing the successive steps, moving from one to another. Instead of forming a whole individual based on aggregation of diverse, we divide ourselves into our different simultaneous activities forming our "path" and we give away data, samples, and attention also.
The types of machine used by members of a society tells a lot about these societies in which they appeared, as they get used by citizens in accordance with their contemporary social norms. In the societies of Sovereignty the tools were pretty simple and without mystery (shape and function were quite corresponding and there was no much need for a hard mental exercise). Hammers, clocks, levers…
The societies of Discipline made possible the injection of energy into them which allocated them entropy and potential sabotage.
In the societies of Control we use machines of third type, depicting the evolution of capitalism. While it used to be a capitalism of concentration and production (and enclosure) we now buy finished products and sell services. It is dispersive and distanciated, disconnected with the Hic and Nunc. People are not locally enclosed but the spectrum of debt floats virtually upon them.
Citizens are not confined into closed spaces, they can come and go, yet their actions can be traced. All the old institutions are evolving in that very same direction, getting flattened, all in the same ensemble.
We can't see who watches us. Discipline is maintained by the invisibility of the controlling force. The expression of the self, "freedom of speech", operates a subtle distraction. Perhaps Although we have clues that information is getting collected (Prism, AOL data leak in 2006) we don't really know what is the purpose of this collection.
Now the question is how the citizens will create their very own form of counter power. Unions which constituted counter power in an earlier form of capitalism (based on production) aren't efficient anymore. The model has changed, weapons have to adapt.