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Monday, June 16, 2008

Lose Control

posted by on June 16 at 12:45 PM

To see the point in history that marks the birth place of our society, control society, we should look here, at city planning:
But let’s take a step back.

In his short essay “Society of Control,” Gilles Deleuze separated this older order of society, one that’s under discipline:

Foucault located the disciplinary societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; they reach their height at the outset of the twentieth. They initiate the organization of vast spaces of enclosure. The individual never ceases passing from one closed environment to another, each having its own laws: first the family; then the school (“you are no longer in your family”); then the barracks (“you are no longer at school”); then the factory; from time to time the hospital; possibly the prison, the preeminent instance of the enclosed environment. It’s the prison that serves as the analogical model: at the sight of some laborers, the heroine of Rossellini’s Europa ‘51 could exclaim, “I thought I was seeing convicts.”

From the current order, one under control:

The family, the school, the army, the factory are no longer the distinct analogical spaces that converge towards an owner—state or private power—but coded figures—deformable and transformable—of a single corporation that now has only stockholders. Even art has left the spaces of enclosure in order to enter into the open circuits of the bank. The conquests of the market are made by grabbing control and no longer by disciplinary training, by fixing the exchange rate much more than by lowering costs, by transformation of the product more than by specialization of production. Corruption thereby gains a new power. Marketing has become the center or the “soul” of the corporation. We are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world. The operation of markets is now the instrument of social control and forms the impudent breed of our masters. Control is short-term and of rapid rates of turnover, but also continuous and without limit, while discipline was of long duration, infinite and discontinuous. Man is no longer man enclosed, but man in debt.

In the older form of society, management of the population was direct and rigid; in the present one, it is fluid and soft. And the end of control is you managing you, you schooling you, you doctoring you, you hiring you, you punishing you. In an environment that has you doing everything, self-help books thrive.

But control society has an origin. It’s in 19th century urban projects like Trafalgar Square and Haussmannization. What it is that dislocates these projects from their moment, disciplinary society, is that the management of the poor comes with real benefits. In the case of Trafalgar Square, fountains, art, an open space for leisure and also political activities; with Haussmannization, improved sanitation, the beautification of the city, and so on. But as open as they might be, both the square in London and the boulevards of Paris have as their essence the control of the poor with the visible benefits of life and the obscured threats of death—exposure to fresh air and sunshine comes with the exposure to cannon balls. From these open spaces issues a society that will obscure state power and replace it with the visibility (or simulacrum) of self-empowerment. In disciplinary society, your factory boss is your worst enemy; in control society, you are your own worst enemy.

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Kelly O and Ari Spool give Charles Mudede can of Rize, Charles Mudede drink Rize, freak out, Hulk out, CHARLES MUDEDE BECOME HULK!


And no, I'm not letting it go.

Posted by The Incredible Sulk | June 16, 2008 12:56 PM

Institutionalization on the Internet is carried out by the shift to centralized, server-side communities such as Facebook or The Slog in place of decentralized client-side email lists or independently-hosted personal web pages and private blogs. They took birth, education, death and funerals out of the private home and put them under one large roof. The formerly individualized activity was now only a slight deviation from a standard template. Similarly, your online presence today takes place within the bounds of a "template" given for your convenience, ease, and of course, security.

Posted by elenchos | June 16, 2008 1:06 PM

Who has what invested in success? In the self control example it appears that control is gradually being lost to debt and the corporation. As souless as it is.

Posted by Vince | June 16, 2008 1:26 PM

Hey, thanks for the heads-up on this Charles. I was busy paying attention to the US Open playoff.

Posted by Joe M | June 16, 2008 1:53 PM

Thank you Charles. I like this part of Slog. Foucault, whom Deleuze is quoting, did cite Haussmann's Paris boulevards as an instrument of “discipline society" -- an ideology of rational planning and control that organized people and cities as sites of discipline. In Paris, the boulevards arranged the city into a collection of holding tanks, accessible to armies and police.

But Foucault also lived to witness the chaos of sprawl, which dissolves the rational clarity of “discipline society.” The robust outward view of the boulevards gives way to cul de sacs, parking lots, and highway-fed malls. And here “flow,” which had been stymied by Haussmann, returned, as a new kind of prison.

Foucault saw the fractured confusion of sprawl as an instrument of a new regime that he termed “bio power.” Bio power (very much like what Rem Koolhaas has called “Junkspace”) enlists us in an endless series of disconnected encounters, a sequence of pleasures, each eclipsed by the next. Bio power positions us as parasites, passing blindly through an intestine.

The sine qua non of bio power, Foucault says, is ceaseless flow. Within the constantly moving, amnesiac arrangements of “bio power,” the individual is no more free than before, but imprisoned in service to “growth, circulation, and trade, rather than glory, harmony, or hierarchical order.”

I learned most of this from two geographers, Henning Fuller and Nadine Marquardt. Their paper discussing these two very different regimes, "discipline society" and "bio power" is online at

Posted by Matthew Stadler | June 16, 2008 2:02 PM

Oh, scheiße! The right address for the essay is

Posted by Matthew Stadler | June 16, 2008 2:08 PM

Interesting that in a time of "soft" control society there are myriad examples of "temporary autonomous zones" springing up hither and yon. Short-lived situations in remote (and sometimes urban) areas where the only standing rule is "Do no harm"(to others), and where one is free to act on one's will and conscience.
They've got the debt-notes, but we've got the numbers...

Posted by treacle | June 16, 2008 3:55 PM

Ponder: Did Foucault's parents give him Ritalin to control ADHD?

Posted by jackseattle | June 16, 2008 5:00 PM

Too little, too late, with too few listening, too many now incapable of
caring, and the remainder whose interests are served best simply and too easily by yawning at the spectacle of the Stranger deriding the spectacle.

Posted by Roger Weaver | June 17, 2008 1:04 PM

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