1. Historical

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

Foucault has brilliantly analyzed the ideal project of these
environments of enclosure, particularly visible within the factory:
to concentrate; to distribute in space; to order in time; to
compose a productive force within the dimension of space-time whose
effect will be greater than the sum of its component forces. But
what Foucault recognized as well was the transience of this model:
it succeeded that of the societies of sovereignty, the goal and
functions of which were something quite different (to tax rather
than to organize production, to rule on death rather than to
administer life); the transition took place over time, and Napoleon
seemed to effect the large-scale conversion from one society to the
other. But in their turn the disciplines underwent a crisis to the
benefit of new forces that were gradually instituted and which
accelerated after World War II: a disciplinary society was what we
already no longer were, what we had ceased to be.

We are in a generalized crisis in relation to all the
environments of enclosure–prison, hospital, factory, school,
family. The family is an “interior,” in crisis like all other
interiors–scholarly, professional, etc. The administrations in
charge never cease announcing supposedly necessary reforms: to
reform schools, to reform industries, hospitals, the armed forces,
prisons. But everyone knows that these institutions are finished,
whatever the length of their expiration periods. It’s only a
matter of administering their last rites and of keeping people
employed until the installation of the new forces knocking at the
door. These are the societies of control, which are in the
process of replacing disciplinary societies. “Control” is the name
Burroughs proposes as a term for the new monster, one that Foucault
recognizes as our immediate future. Paul Virilio also is
continually analyzing the ultrarapid forms of free-floating control
that replaced the old disciplines operating in the time frame of a
closed system. There is no need to invoke the extraordinary
pharmaceutical productions, the molecular engineering, the genetic
manipulations, although these are slated to enter the new process.
There is no need to ask which is the toughest regime, for it’s
within each of them that liberating and enslaving forces confront
one another. For example, in the crisis of the hospital as
environment of enclosure, neighborhood clinics, hospices, and day
care could at first express new freedom, but they could participate
as well in mechanisms of control that are equal to the harshest of
confinements. There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look
for new weapons.

2. Logic

The different internments of spaces of enclosure through which
the individual passes are independent variables: each time one us
supposed to start from zero, and although a common language for all
these places exists, it is analogical. One the other hand, the
different control mechanisms are inseparable variations, forming a
system of variable geometry the language of which is numerical
(which doesn’t necessarily mean binary). Enclosures are molds,
distinct castings, but controls are a modulation, like a
self-deforming cast that will continuously change from one moment
to the other, or like a sieve whose mesh will transmute from point
to point.

This is obvious in the matter of salaries: the factory was a
body that contained its internal forces at the level of
equilibrium, the highest possible in terms of production, the
lowest possible in terms of wages; but in a society of control, the
corporation has replaced the factory, and the corporation is a
spirit, a gas. Of course the factory was already familiar with the
system of bonuses, but the corporation works more deeply to impose
a modulation of each salary, in states of perpetual metastability
that operate through challenges, contests, and highly comic group
sessions. If the most idiotic television game shows are so
successful, it’s because they express the corporate situation with
great precision. The factory constituted individuals as a single
body to the double advantage of the boss who surveyed each element
within the mass and the unions who mobilized a mass resistance; but
the corporation constantly presents the brashest rivalry as a
healthy form of emulation, an excellent motivational force that
opposes individuals against one another and runs through each,
dividing each within. The modulating principle of “salary
according to merit” has not failed to tempt national education
itself. Indeed, just as the corporation replaces the factory,
perpetual training tends to replace the school, and continuous
control to replace the examination. Which is the surest way of
delivering the school over to the corporation.

In the disciplinary societies one was always starting again
(from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory),
while in the societies of control one is never finished with
anything–the corporation, the educational system, the armed
services being metastable states coexisting in one and the same
modulation, like a universal system of deformation. In The
, Kafka, who had already placed himself at the pivotal point
between two types of social formation, described the most fearsome
of judicial forms. The apparent acquittal of the disciplinary
societies (between two incarcerations); and the limitless
of the societies of control (in continuous
variation) are two very different modes of juridicial life, and if
our law is hesitant, itself in crisis, it’s because we are leaving
one in order to enter the other. The disciplinary societies have
two poles: the signature that designates the individual, and the
number or administrative numeration that indicates his or her
position within a mass. This is because the disciplines never
saw any incompatibility between these two, and because at the same
time power individualizes and masses together, that is, constitutes
those over whom it exercises power into a body and molds the
individuality of each member of that body. (Foucault saw the origin
of this double charge in the pastoral power of the priest–the
flock and each of its animals–but civil power moves in turn and by
other means to make itself lay “priest.”) In the societies of
control, on the other hand, what is important is no longer either
a signature or a number, but a code: the code is a password,
while on the other hand disciplinary societies are regulated by
watchwords (as much from the point of view of integration as from
that of resistance). The numerical language of control is made of
codes that mark access to information, or reject it. We no longer
find ourselves dealing with the mass/individual pair. Individuals
have become “dividuals,” and masses, samples, data, markets, or
banks.” Perhaps it is money that expresses the distinction
between the two societies best, since discipline always referred
back to minted money that locks gold as numerical standard, while
control relates to floating rates of exchange, modulated according
to a rate established by a set of standard currencies. The old
monetary mole is the animal of the space of enclosure, but the
serpent is that of the societies of control. We have passed from
one animal to the other, from the mole to the serpent, in the
system under which we live, but also in our manner of living and in
our relations with others. The disciplinary man was a
discontinuous producer of energy, but the man of control is
undulatory, in orbit, in a continuous network. Everywhere surfing
has already replaced the older sports.

Types of machines are easily matched with each type of
society–not that machines are determining, but because they
express those social forms capable of generating them and using
them. The old societies of sovereignty made use of simple
machines–levers, pulleys, clocks; but the recent disciplinary
societies equipped themselves with machines involving energy, with
the passive danger of entropy and the active danger of sabotage;
the societies of control operate with machines of a third type,
computers, whose passive danger is jamming and whose active one is
piracy or the introduction of viruses. This technological
evolution must be, even more profoundly, a mutation of capitalism,
an already well-known or familiar mutation that can be summed up as
follows: nineteenth-century capitalism is a capitalism of
concentration, for production and for property. It therefore
erects a factory as a space of enclosure, the capitalist being the
owner of the means of production but also, progressively, the owner
of other spaces conceived through analogy (the worker’s familial
house, the school). As for markets, they are conquered sometimes
by specialization, sometimes by colonization, sometimes by lowering
the costs of production. But in the present situation, capitalism
is no longer involved in production, which it often relegates to
the Third World, even for the complex forms of textiles,
metallurgy, or oil production. It’s a capitalism of higher-order
production. It no-longer buys raw materials and no longer sells the
finished products: it buys the finished products or assembles
parts. What it wants to sell is services but what it wants to buy
is stocks. This is no longer a capitalism for production but for
the product, which is to say, for being sold or marketed. Thus is
essentially dispersive, and the factory has given way to the
corporation. 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. It is true that capitalism has retained
as a constant the extreme poverty of three-quarters of humanity,
too poor for debt, too numerous for confinement: control will not
only have to deal with erosions of frontiers but with the
explosions within shanty towns or ghettos.

3. Program

The conception of a control mechanism, giving the position of
any element within an open environment at any given instant
(whether animal in a reserve or human in a corporation, as with an
electronic collar), is not necessarily one of science fiction. Felix Guattari has imagined a city where one would be able to leave
one’s apartment, one’s street, one’s neighborhood, thanks to one’s
(dividual) electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the
card could just as easily be rejected on a given day or between
certain hours; what counts is not the barrier but the computer that
tracks each person’s position–licit or illicit–and effects a
universal modulation.

The socio-technological study of the mechanisms of control,
grasped at their inception, would have to be categorical and to
describe what is already in the process of substitution for the
disciplinary sites of enclosure, whose crisis is everywhere
proclaimed. It may be that older methods, borrowed from the former
societies of sovereignty, will return to the fore, but with the
necessary modifications. What counts is that we are at the
beginning of something. In the prison system: the attempt to
find penalties of “substitution,” at least for petty crimes, and
the use of electronic collars that force the convicted person to
stay at home during certain hours. For the school system:
continuous forms of control, and the effect on the school of
perpetual training, the corresponding abandonment of all university
research, the introduction of the “corporation” at all levels of
schooling. For the hospital system: the new medicine “without
doctor or patient” that singles out potential sick people and
subjects at risk, which in no way attests to individuation–as they
say–but substitutes for the individual or numerical body the code
of a “dividual” material to be controlled. In the corporate
: new ways of handling money, profits, and humans that no
longer pass through the old factory form. These are very small
examples, but ones that will allow for better understanding of what
is meant by the crisis of the institutions, which is to say, the
progressive and dispersed installation of a new system of
domination. One of the most important questions will concern the
ineptitude of the unions: tied to the whole of their history of
struggle against the disciplines or within the spaces of enclosure,
will they be able to adapt themselves or will they give way to new
forms of resistance against the societies of control? Can we
already grasp the rough outlines of the coming forms, capable of
threatening the joys of marketing? Many young people strangely
boast of being “motivated”; they re-request apprenticeships and
permanent training. It’s up to them to discover what they’re being
made to serve, just as their elders discovered, not without
difficulty, the telos of the disciplines. The coils of a serpent
are even more complex that the burrows of a molehill.

Gilles Deleuze, 1992


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“Postscript on the Societies of Control” by Gilles Deleuze

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