Control Societies: Notes for an Introduction

Winter 2014 / Summer 2015

First published in Michel Butel’s popular review L’Autre journal, of which he was an editorial board member, Gilles Deleuze’s essay on control societies, re-published in Pourparlers in 1990 and later translated as the ‘Postscript on Control Societies’ (hereafter just the ‘Postscript’) has proved to be one of his most widely cited pieces of work. Presented in historical terms as the successor to the disciplinary configuration of power elaborated by his friend Michel Foucault, the logic of control sketched out by Deleuze has proved highly suggestive within the arts and social sciences (in Anglophone countries in particular), as a means of articulating understandings of a range of historically grounded shifts in the organisation of power.

Yet, brief as it is, Deleuze’s essay can scarcely be thought to offer anything like a complete account of control, whether that is to be understood either uniquely on Deleuze’s terms or, in particular, as a comprehensively established contrast to the disciplinary logic presented by Foucault. Its cursory and suggestive form makes the historical basis of the argument obscure, and, whilst it makes numerous references to concepts established by Deleuze elsewhere in his writings (modulation, dividual, order-word/pass-word and so on), the broader basis of its connections with his more carefully established accounts of, for example, capitalism, are not entirely obvious. […]

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