The Surveillance State

Reg Whitaker

Abstract


Foucault insists that developing capitalism was a mighty engine driving this gradual transformation of power from its archaic feudal form into more modern shapes. From the supervised discipline of ‘free’ labour in the workplace to the diffuse, networked discipline of economic activity through the market, capitalism both decentres and pervasively structures power. But even as late as the mid-twentieth century, much of the older coercion-based centralized forms of power remained intact, exemplified in the one-party states claiming both left- and right-wing ideological legitimation; and in the executives of liberal democratic states at war, or cold war, wielding unilateral power to unleash weapons of mass destruction protected behind near-impenetrable walls of state secrecy. Revolutionary new information technologies, vastly enhanced computing and data processing power, and the global hegemony of the Internet are not only transforming the economies, societies and cultures of the capitalist world, but they have also contributed to an immense acceleration of panoptic, as opposed to coercive, power.

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