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Surveillance and international relations

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Surveillance is perhaps the most important thing that affects us in our daily lives. Surveillance can be a mode of governmentality referring to a certain number of concepts, particularly Foucault theories. Talking about surveillance is not just about technical elements. There is a whole discussion related to the need to be in a security situation, but limiting our freedoms. The purpose is not necessarily to face a danger external to us, but the purpose of monitoring to manage us.

Surveillance[edit | edit source]

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Governing: from the territory to the population[edit | edit source]

Michel Foucault led us to reflect on another way of approaching the term government. When we talk about surveillance, we are talking about a different way of thinking about how to govern ourselves. A panoptic is an architectural structure to be able to always monitor. The image of the panoptic is retraced by Foucault in his development history, that is, a development between governing the territory and governing the population. It shows that in the 16th and 17th centuries, people thought about governing a specific territory. The central dimension is territorial delimitation where the State can act in a legitimate way. There is relatively little thought about who is governing us. Today, there is an obsession with the account, with data profiling, with data that defines us as a specific individual. Foucault shows how, from the 17th century onwards, we move from the idea of governing a territory to governing a population: "a population is defined in relation to issues of life and death, health and disease, propagation and longevity" which are measurable, quantifiable through multiple instruments.

When we think about a population, we are interested in health, their statistics and fertility, and reproductive issues. As Dean shows in Governmentality. Power and Rule in Modern Society, change of government is a change of attitude from government to the people. In Il faut défendre la société published in 1997, Foucault shows that we are moving from the right to let live and die (sovereignty) to the right to let live and die (bio-politics). The State accompanies the individual in all aspects of our lives. When we talk about letting people die, to a certain extent, the state chooses the frameworks in which we will die. The state governs the individual at all times. This "whole" participates in a production of knowledge that participates in a form of government of the population. Statistics is a tool for the production of knowledge that does not simply make a space empty by collecting data, statistics creates problems. The development of statistics that appeared during the 17th century essentially makes it possible to see how a State seeks to control and manage the population. We must take an interest in the issue of statistics. This gives indications of how the government thinks the people think.

Governmentality[edit | edit source]

In Le sujet et le pouvoir published in 1982, Foucault states that "The exercise of power consists in'conducting conduct' and adjusting probability. Power, in essence, is less of the order of the confrontation between two adversaries, or of the commitment of one to the other, than of the order of the'government'.... Government in the 16th century] did not only refer to political structures and state management; it referred to the way in which individuals and groups conduct themselves: government of children, souls, communities, families, the sick.... To govern in this sense is to structure the possible field of action of others.

Governmentality is about conducting conduct. It is not only the government that pushes us to define conduct, but also the way we are led to conduct ourselves. Through the dimension of what the State invites us to do, our subjectivities invite us to do it. What is important in the dimensions of production is that we create subjectivity around the idea of being a productive actor and if we are not, we will feel bad as for some unemployed people who feel they do not have the right conduct to have.

The Foucauldian idea is that we are in a relationship of power and therefore in a relationship of co-constitution. Actors have more capital to determine what we are going to be. Foucault will return to the first meaning of the term government: "it referred to the way in which individuals and groups conduct themselves: the government of children, souls, communities, families, the sick". To govern is to structure the essential field of others. The government's goal is to make us act with a certain probability. The government is going to give a range of problems of what we are going to do and how we are going to do it. Not only do we make people think of themselves in a certain way through statistics, ministries and laws, but of course this has an effect on the way we think of ourselves as self-regulating. It is thinking in a certain way, acting in a certain way, but it is also thinking and acting according to what the State wants us to do.

Mitchell Dean has published Governmentality. Power and Rule in Modern Society raising the central question of a government analytic which is "How do we govern and are we governed within different regimes[of practices, vérité́, etc.], and[what are] the conditions through which these regimes emerge, continue to operate and are transformed". Practice remiges are the way in which an object will lead us to act in a particular way when in fact we would have to act in different ways. In Japan, the refusal of full employment for the younger generations can be read in a way of thinking that goes against previous generations who saw work as an end in itself as a citizen and as individuals.

There is a historical contextual dimension, it is always necessary to think that there is an origin without trying to discover its origin. The aim is to show that there are very specific moments that explain modes of representation and referents. It's about looking at how these things will reappear. It is necessary to study continuity while admitting that there are not only determinants. When Foucault talks about government in Security, Territory, People, he posits that there is an essential technology to govern who are the "security devices".

The apparatus[edit | edit source]

In Michel Foucault's Le jeu, Foucault speaks of " apparatus " as " a resolutely heterogeneous whole, comprising speeches, institutions, architectural arrangements, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic proposals, in short: both what is said and what is not said... The device itself is the network that can be established between these elements.... [the device is] some kind of... of training, which, at a given historical moment, had as its major function to respond to an emergency.

An apparatus and everything is anything but anything unless you are interested in it in terms of a problem because you are going to start shaping and discover the apparatus set up by starting to give it a specific outline. For the question of surveillance, a discourse is created. For example, with terrorism, the discourse on the unknown will justify certain modes of management and modes of practice. An airport can be analyzed as an architectural system to control the flow of people. A device is not necessarily linked to each other. There comes a time when the state goes out of the law to be able to deal with a danger or threat. Between the United States and Canada, a series of framework agreements are in place to facilitate border crossings. A system will be set up to be safe, to deal with a potential threat. For example, an automatic license plate recognition program has been implemented. The aim is to facilitate border crossing. This raises the question of how the simple act of crossing the border starts from the idea of controlling flows, but with technical measures to facilitate the flow. What is at stake is the individual as a body that has a certain trajectory.

The panoptic[edit | edit source]

We are entering a panoptic logic that is a logic where we no longer realize that we are being watched. The panoptic is the will to govern the individual. Surveillance is often considered in its commercial dimension. Most of the time, there is the idea that surveillance is linked to the sale of our data; but it is underestimating what surveillance does that is intended to lead us to behave in a certain way. The purpose of surveillance is to encourage us to adopt behaviours. The tension of the new communication tools is to make us behave in a certain way.

The panoptic is an ideal. The metaphor of the panoptic is the metaphor of society, which is a metaphor for regulation and self-regulation in which states and technologies are there to lead us to behave well. The purpose of a camera is not simply to catch us in the act, but to lead us to behave differently because we are seen. There is a dialectic between seeing and being seen. It is a dialectic related to vision. In the panoptic, the guard in the middle of his tower is not seen by the prisoners. The purpose of the panoptic is not to have a guard in the tower, the prisoner must think that a guard can be present in the tower. The metaphor of the panoptic society is a society under surveillance where there is no supervisor, it is a society where we are our own supervisor.

In Surveillance Technology and Surveillance Society published in 2004, David Lyon postulates that "Paradoxically, the hard side of the panoptic spectrum can generate moments of refusal and resistance that go against the production of docile bodies, while the soft side seems to seduce its participants to a frightening conformity to which some seem barely aware".

Surveillance can be the prison guard or the person who forces us to behave in a certain way. The strength of the panoptic as we present it is to be a soft method, we will not constrain, but we are inserted in a security device in order to govern ourselves and to govern ourselves without necessarily being aware of it.

The technologies[edit | edit source]

When Foucault talks about technology, it is always a very ambivalent term. In "Foucault and Technology" History and Technology: An International Journal, Behrent makes two important acceptances:

  1. "since the 17th century, the same type of rationality, scientifically established procedures to control nature, production, time, and so on, have been used to manage human beings, particularly in the context of institutions. The purpose of science, the purpose of the lights are progressive goals, to make life easier, to be more effective. Machining in industry is to avoid hard tasks for individuals, increase productivity, increase the efficiency of producing certain complex objects, but with a certain ideology where the individual is limited to a specific task. If we take Fordism, the ideal of the human producer comes from the fact that there are concrete technical changes leading as a producer to conceive himself in a relationship limited to the object of production. As Foucault has shown, the mechanical relationship is a discipline to fulfill a function. Foucault shows that this has led us to reflect on ourselves in society in a different way.
  2. form of disciplinary power"'producing' individuals in such a way as to integrate them into political and economic structures by supervising, subjectivizing and normalizing them" thus making illusory the idea of an "abstract subject defined by his individual rights". Often we have the idea that we are free to act as we see fit. As an agent, we have a number of choices and options available to us. It is a liberal use of choice when the choice is biased when we are being shaped to understand choices in a certain way. To a certain extent, we are led to conceive ourselves in a certain sense. The society in which we live is a society of institutions, and life is a follow-up to those institutions in which we are led to think of ourselves in a certain way.

Surveillance on a daily basis[edit | edit source]

Surveillance is a form of daily governmentality. In his book The Electronic Eye: The Rise of Surveillance Society, David Lyon writes that "Specific details of our personal lives are collected, recorded, retrieved and used every day in huge databases owned by large companies and government institutions. This is the "surveillance society". This includes withdrawing money from a ATM, making a phone call, using a loyalty card, driving a car, borrowing books from the library, using Facebook, crossing a border on a trip, walking on the street, etc. Therefore, having a desire can lead to isolation.

Control of flows and people[edit | edit source]

Flow and people control can be CCTV[closed circuit television] such as facial recognition, flow management. These flow management tools that analyze bodies, but are not capable of discernment. There are also tools for recognizing emotions that can lead to confessional situations.

With architecture as well as airports, they are constructions to control and rhythm the flows. In an airport, several rhythms are offered with the passage of different modalities of specific passages in a security logic, but also in a consumption logic. This architecture will allow us to reflect on how we will control ourselves as individuals. It is a temporality of sequential mobility with different processes: identification → control → control → consumption → surveillance → identification → mobility.

Biometrics raises reliability and security issues. It has been shown that these technologies have a margin of error because they are in the probability. This raises the issues of data sharing, which is the idea that if you provide your data to the Swiss government, for example, the Swiss government will transfer them to other countries. Once the data is shared, the data may participate in commercial databases.

One of the most powerful issues is the change from identification to authentication. This is to see if there is a relationship between what we claim to be and identity. With biometrics, it is no longer a question of whether you are the right person, but whether you really represent what you claim to be as a traveller. We are entering technologies in which we are not interested in the individual in relation to his identity card, but in relation to characteristics in order to verify whether we are authentically who we claim to be. This generates a logic of confession and authorization. There is an expectation that will lead to confiding in you through a scenario. It is no longer necessary to be identical, but authentic.

The myth of the balance[edit | edit source]

The reduction of freedoms[edit | edit source]

From the security perspective, we are entering an exceptional moment because someone has the power to say danger. There are also very specific moments when the State begins to act in order to reduce certain freedoms, such as in special situations of war, emergency or imminent danger. The state of emergency, the measures of reduction of freedom is a privilege given to the executive. These are special and discretionary powers in the order of an exception. If we look historically at wartime times when there was this kind of delegation, frequently, the judicial power, which is one of the strongest countervailing forces and the ultimate power of discretion, has called into question this discretionary power. One may wonder why there are so many facilities in a democracy to accept that the State can have such powers when the democratic model is the idea of a balance between spheres of power to limit such situations. In other words, the judiciary has historically demonstrated a general reluctance to oppose reductions in freedoms in these situations.

Some types of reduction:

  • limitation in the possibility for individuals to travel freely: the State argues that it has the prerogative to interfere with the freedom of movement without having to justify why it does so. The State assumes a number of rights for itself without necessarily respecting certain rights. In France, anti-terrorist judges have powerful prerogatives when justified, so they have the ability to arrest people, to put them in prison;
  • indefinite imprisonment without trial: the possibility, while there are legal remedies, of having a lawyer and having access to his or her file, of not consulting one;
  • collection of personal data for intelligence purposes: this is done without reference to a judge. In cases of strong security logic, there is an authorization to ignore these requests;
  • collection and use of personal and biometric data without control over their storage, communication and commodification: it is the collection of all forms of information related to practices leading to the creation of databases on which we have no margin of manpower and no awareness of their existence that can be shared, modified and commodified without our consent.

The concept of balance[edit | edit source]

Intuitively there is a sense that we must find a balance between freedom and security. On the one hand, there are the freedoms of the individual within a specific framework to act, i.e. the freedoms of an individual to do as he or she sees fit, and on the other hand, there is the idea that security must be there to protect society from the actions of certain individuals who threaten or modify it. There is a balance between freedom and the sense that the state must protect us. A balance must be struck between these two elements. The idea of balance is the idea that there is something natural in thinking about the relationship between freedom and security, which is an intimate and natural relationship.

For Waldron, in Security and Liberty: the Image of Balance published in 2003, the balance must evolve according to changes in this threat if it becomes more serious and imminent. If the threat were to disappear or fade, there is the idea that we would rebalance to have more freedom. The balance must evolve with changes in this threat if it becomes more serious and imminent. There is the idea of quantifying what you gain and what you lose. The concept of balance has connotations of precision and quantity. It means putting your freedoms on hold knowing that you should find them at some point.

Normative issues[edit | edit source]

The normative question is how much room for manoeuvre should be left to a State to take action to protect us. All democratic states have systems in place to prevent the executive from becoming too strong.

On September 11, 2001, Waldron says that there was "a feeling that a reduction in our freedoms may be appropriate after the terrorist attacks, and that it may have been unreasonable to insist on the same restrictions on state action after September 11 in the same way that we did before September 11. It is the idea that there is a tension where nothing is ever acquired, because our freedoms are contextual because they are linked to the threats and dangers we face.

Waldron identifies four central normative issues:

1) can consequentialist reasoning be applied to an issue such as individual rights? The reasoning on balance is a consequentialist reasoning, that is, we will justify a certain number of actions according to the consequences we will have. Limiting freedoms is right insofar as the consequences are to make us safer. Waldron asks us whether it is possible to reason in this way when it comes to limiting our fundamental rights, whether it is a justification of security is sufficient to limit our rights. When it comes to our fundamental rights, is it not a balance and is it not giving something to the state that can no longer be found? Waldron proposes a deontological perspective in order to know if our individual freedoms can be reflected in consequentialist terms or if these are inalienable things that cannot be challenged.

2) does the reduction of freedoms induced by a security logic disproportionately affect a section of the population? The idea of balance speaks in a very abstract way, but we realize that some populations are more challenged than others. If we question and use this balance, we can ask ourselves to what extent we have effects that applied to everyone, to what extent we create discrimination against certain people; therefore, to what extent the idea of balance only reinforces forms of domination within societies, groups or between individuals.

3) To what extent does the decrease in our negative freedoms result in a decrease in our security against the State? One of the central elements of democratic thinking, but also of liberal thinking, is that the first enemy is the state. The reflection of democratic politics is to arrive at a situation where we know that the State will not be able to become authoritarian, to use its discretionary capacities. As long as we reduce our freedoms, we can wonder to what extent the State is beginning to have powers over our individual freedoms that make the balance on which we base society give an illusion; to what extent this in order to become just a procedure, the balance of power between the individual and the State changes in such a way that we are no longer in the original balance. The security logic is the logic of a state where the state takes precedence over the rest. If we accept the limitation of individual freedoms, then to what extent we accept that the state becomes authoritarian.

4) do these measures have real or symbolic effects? For example, most airport security measures are symbolic. Moreover, most people who will want to bypass these devices will be able to do so easily by other means. This raises the question of whether we can respect our individual freedoms if they are symbolic. It is possible to apply consequentialist reasoning, but when it comes to concrete measures taken on a daily basis, they do not have concrete effects.

The myth of balance[edit | edit source]

There is an inherent problem in the reflection on the balance between freedom and security. For Waldron, the problem of inherence is to be able to think in terms of balance. Waldron's normative questions raise the question of whether the concept of balance is relevant when it comes to thinking about what our societies are, what forms they take. This is the idea that when it comes to thinking about security, it may be a political act. Talking, doing, acting in terms of security means that we are bound by a political act that is never neutral.

Neocleous argues that the concept of balance is a myth. The myth can have several definitions, but it uses two of them:

  • the first is the idea of a founding myth. Since the social contract is a founding myth, Neocleous asks the same question related to the question between balance and security. Is this not a political myth that justifies the acceptance of a certain order by people who have no interest?
  • The other idea is that a myth produces an imaginary that justifies things. Neocleous' argument is to ask the question that if something is justified, shown and put forward, is there not something else to hide because the myth dazzles us?

Several authors will note that when Liberal thinkers use exceptional measures, it is always to protect private property. Neocleous is a neo-Marxist thinker who shows that among liberal thinkers, security is just as important as freedom. In Security, Liberty and the Myth of Balance: Towards a Critique of Security Politics, Neocleous postulates that "the myth of the'balance' between security and freedom opens the door[back] to the acceptance of a range of authoritarian security measures; measures that are then justified on a liberal basis". It is not a question of protecting freedom, but security measures are justified by freedom. In other words, it hides one of the central elements of liberalism: security is more important than freedom. The issue for the Liberals is that when we implement security measures, we protect a certain group and certain things by certain people.

We find ourselves in a paradox where we expect Liberal thought to denounce liberticidal measures when in fact it is more likely to justify them. Precisely because in a liberal democratic state, we have this moment when, consciously or unconsciously, we return part of our freedoms, we expect the state to guarantee our freedoms, so any diminution of our freedoms takes on an even greater significance. We are in asymmetric relations with the State and democracy is the management of asymmetric relations in the interest and advantage of the individual is not of the State. Yet we are still at the mercy of the state. It is important to update this dimension after we are increasingly in logics that reduce our freedoms, that condition them. Liberalism is therefore part of authoritarian logics, albeit minor compared to autocratic regimes, which are becoming more and more present and persistent.

The consequence for Neocleous is that "the very concept of security must be abandoned, because it blinds us to contemporary forms of social domination and justifies the short-circuiting of even the most minimalist forms of democratic procedures". We must abandon even the concept of security, thinking in terms of security and strengthening the kinds of domination of neoliberal thinking. In fact, we forget that perhaps fundamentally, that what will determine the balance of our societies is not freedom and security, but perhaps it is the class relationship, the political economy.

Résister à la surveillance[edit | edit source]

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Surveillance as defined by Lyon in Surveillance Society: Monitoring Everyday Life, is defined as "the collection and analysis of personal data, whether identifiable or not, with the aim of influencing or managing those from whom such data have been collected".

James Scott shows that two types of resistance can be found.

  • transformative resistance: resisting this process is difficult, because we are in a logic that we can only with difficulty break or transform. Most of the time, we can't resist the state because the state is stronger. This type of resistance is not the only way to identify forms of resistance.
  • Appropriative resistance: Appropriative resistance is to know to what extent in our daily lives we transform our asymmetric relationships through small things by destabilizing them in a specific moment.

It is possible to divert the surveillance structure as Hasan Elahi shows. Authors provide reading keys in an attempt to open people's eyes or transform the relationship between the state and the individual.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Behrent, Michael C. (2013) “Foucault and Technology” History and Technology: An International Journal 29(1): 54-104.!
  • Dean, M. (2010) Governmentality. Power and Rule in Modern Society. 2nd ed. London: SAGE Publications.!
  • Foucault, M. (1997) "Il faut défendre la société." Cours au Collège de France. 1976. Paris: Hautes Etudes Gallimard/Seuil.!
  • Foucault, M. (2001[1977]) "Le jeu de Michel Foucault", in Dits et Ecrits II, 1976-1988. Paris: Quatro Gallimard, pp. 298-329. !
  • Foucault, M. (2001[1982]) "Le sujet et le pouvoir", in Dits et Ecrits II, 1976-1988. Paris: Quatro Gallimard, pp. 1041-1062. !
  • Foucault, M. (2004) Sécurité, territoire, population. Cours au Collège de France. 1977-1978. Paris: Hautes Etudes Gallimard/Seuil.!
  • Lyon, D. (2006) “The search for surveillance theories”, in Lyon, David, ed. Theorizing Surveillance. The Panopticon and Beyond. Willan Publishing, pp. 3-20.
  • Neocleous, Mark. 2007. “Security, Liberty and the Myth of Balance: Towards a Critique of Security Politics.” Contemporary Political Theory 6 (1): 131–49.!
  • Waldron, Jeremy. 2003. “Security and Liberty: the Image of Balance.” Journal of Political Philosophy 11 (2). Wiley Online Library: 191–210.

References[edit | edit source]