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surveillancethe monitoring, and the associated direct or indirect forms of supervision and superintendence by the modern STATE, of the activities of its citizens. The capacity for surveillance possessed by modern NATION STATES has increased compared with those available to earlier forms of state, as the result of spectacular improvements in techniques for the collection and storage of INFORMATION and equally striking improvements in means of transport and communications.
For FOUCAULT, in Discipline and Punish (1975), the ‘disciplinary power’ of modern societies is an all-pervasive feature of these societies and a predominant feature of administrative power within them. Remedial and CARCERAL ORGANIZATIONS, which remove human liberty are not more than extreme forms of a generalized tendency to heightened surveillance within these societies.
Foucault's emphasis is disputed by many however. Our heightened awareness of, and concern about, situations in which some individuals are subject to loss of liberty reflects the new importance of a concern for liberty within modern societies and the many areas of life in which liberties have increased. Nonetheless, few dispute that – for good and for ill – surveillance and control are an important characteristic of modern societies and the modern state. Compare ORIENTAL DESPOTISM, ABSOLUTISM. See also SEQUESTRATION, TOTALITARIANISM.