In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Editor's Note
  • Jeffrey R. Di Leo (bio)

A radical shift in political theory in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was famously identified by Michel Foucault. It was located in the move from societies of sovereignty to disciplinary societies.1 For Gilles Deleuze, the disciplinary societies identified by Foucault reached their height at the outset of the twentieth century and were replaced by societies of control. While, following Deleuze, it would be wonderful to say that these societies of control reached their height at the outset of the twenty-first century and were replaced by a different form of society, it would be far from accurate. If anything, control society perseveres to new heights in conditions of permanent crisis, endless environmental degradation, and creative destruction making every aspect of society less habitable and more insufferable. From the increasing financialization of everyday life to the growing administration and automation of social processes, control has come to take on an expanding and expansive role in the new millenium.

The future of neoliberal society for Deleuze will not be about "confining people" but rather "multiplying the means of control" over them. Deleuze argues the disciplinary societies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that Foucault "brilliantly analyzed" were "vast spaces of enclosure" (1992, 3). "The individual never ceases passing from one closed environment to another," comments Deleuze of these enclosures, "each has its own laws: first, the family; then the school ("you are 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 closed environment" (3). Foucault, comments Deleuze, saw the enclosures of disciplinary society as a way "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" (3). They marked a transition from the goal and functions of societies of sovereignty that were "to tax rather than organize production to rule on death rather than administer life" (3).

But for Deleuze, the "interiors" of disciplinary society underwent a crisis that accelerated at a rapid pace after World War II. Institutions such as the prison, the hospital, the factory, the school, and the family all endured a crisis of interiority. In spite of many efforts to reform these interiors, "everyone [End Page 7] knows that these institutions are finished, whatever the life of their expiration periods" (Deleuze 1992, 4). "These are the societies of control," writes Deleuze, "which are in the process of replacing disciplinary societies" (4). As such, for Deleuze, control society is currently in the process of replacing the interiorities of disciplinary society—interiorities, for example, as in the case of the family, with their own set of laws whose genealogy can be traced back at least from Kant to Plato.

This shift though from disciplinary society to control society ultimately concerns a fundamental change in social and political power. For Michael Hardt, Deleuze's political philosophy also amounts to a shift in focus from civil society to postcivil society. Whereas for early moderns such as Hobbes and Rousseau, the distinction between the state of nature and the civil state, that is, between natural and civil society, was fundamental to the political order, by Hegel's time the focus shifted to a different dualism, namely, to civil society and political society (Hardt 1998, 24).

As Hardt sees it, Deleuze's notion of control society is "a first attempt to understand the decline of the rule of civil society and the rise of a new form of control" (1998, 30). Instead of disciplinary enclosures, comments Hardt, where the "coordinated striations formed by the institutions of civil society branch out through social space in structured networks" for Deleuze "like the tunnels of a mole" (30), we need to move to a new animal to characterize societies of control: the snake, whose "infinite undulations" characterize for Deleuze "the smooth space of the societies of control" (31). "Instead of disciplining the citizen as a fixed social identity," writes Hardt, "the new social regime seeks to control the citizen as a whatever identity, or...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 7-11
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.