Control and biopower

Where the society of discipline is home, schools and factory work, the society of control is equivalent to the free market, the society of knowledge and permanent global itinernancy. We are non-locatable, selfadjusting and our lives became unstable.

“The societies of discipline have two poles: the signature identifying the invidiual and the registration number indication its position within the masses. […] Within the societies of control, however, the essence isn’t either signature nor a number but a cipher” [deleuze1993pku]

The numbers are located above the inviduals contained in an artificial atmosphere, connected (directly or indirectly) through a 1:1 relation. While the signature is still accessible in an open register, the cipher is the the encryption of the connection. Without knowledge of the code (as information) there’s no way to decipher it.

One or more networks loosely hovering within space, where information is nodes and connection vectors between nodes.

Within the society of discipline autonomous networks coexist, administered by a dedicated power. It’s setting out the arrangement, the system of the networks. The development of the individual is determined by the information available to it and the limits of the system it’s located in. Within the society of control networks appear merged and form a large, globalized network. Nodes are controlled powers are regulated and made (im-)passable. Whereas indviduals appear within the society of discipline as moving through the network, these appear within the society of control as (in parallel to massification [p. 286, focault2001vgv]) measurable and interruptable streams.

Deleuze assigns the society of discpline the term of the registration number, the society of control the one of the cipher. Whereas the registration number allows analog processing, the cipher must necessarily be digitally processed. It’s no coincidence that the UNIX epoch took its cours within era of the society of control. It has been enabled and acelerated by computer technology. Computer convert human digestable information into an internal represantation. Appearing in the realm of software as i.e. hashes, finally mutating into the binary form of machine code.

“We are creating technologies - then we are the technologies: Your heart is not LIKE a pump, your heart IS a pump. It’s not like your brain is like a computer, it is a computer. Until the next thing comes along: Now you’re a neural net or now you’re informations system.” [in interview with John Brockman, dammbeck2004n]

“It’s easy to put each society in relation to machine types. Not because machines are determined, they’re expressing forms of society, which are able them being brought to life and used.”[deleuze2004pku]

Is comparing society with the resources enabling it really too easy? The resources are reflection, a materialization of knowledge, the ability for innovation and affecting the self-understanding of society. Do things merge or overlay with their responsible bodies? Are they defined by or through such things? Isolated from each other, what’s left? Which information is contained within the machine, the tool or the clothes?

Discipline knowing just the body, wants to gain control of (physical and virtual) life.

“[…] the factory being replaced by the company, and this is not a body but a soul a gas.” [deleuze1993pku]

The invisible (such as white psychiatry [lucas1969thx]) is suspected and feared. It penetrates the invisible of society. This is “the collection of life through the power […]” [p.282, foucault2001vgv].

It cannot be circumvented nor undermined, it seems to be everywhere. Held hostage without prison without government. Preventing opposition before it even began.

One must think there is something. When you’re against it: the escape into the virtual network, which seems completly out of control. Now the (higher) power threatens the security of the whole, in the opposite sense [p. 294, foucault2001vgv]. The insular character of the virtual network is finally infiltrated and merged into the network of the real. Or wasn’t it initially designed as an island? Perhaps the original state is just being restored?

Thus, the continued escape ends with subversion, the differing from everything or the merge back into the mass of that is society.

“[…] because it is the nature of the hacker, to be different over time even from himself. Hacking means to be different.”[§ 003, wark2004hm]


Deleuze, Gilles: Postskriptum über die Kontrollgesellschaften in: Unterhandlungen 1972-1990. Frankfurt am Main, Seiten 254–262, 1993.
Foucault, Michel und Michaela Ott: In Verteidigung der Gesellschaft: Vorlesungen am Collège de France (1975-76). Suhrkamp, 2001.
Dammbeck, Lutz: Das Netz, Film, 2004.
Lucas, George: THX 1183. Film, 1969.
Wark, McKenzie: Hacker Manifest. C.H. Beck, 2004.

About this text

This text being part of a series of three essays has been partially revised and initially translated into English for the publication here. It’s been originally created in February 2009 during a seminar about society of control.