Our Future

“Control is not discipline. You do not confine people with a highway. But by making highways, you multiply the means of control. I am not saying this is the only aim of highways, but people can travel infinitely and ‘freely’ without being confined while being perfectly controlled. That is our future.” — Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness, pg 322

I am plowing through the collection Deleuze’s writings and lecture/interview transcripts, Two Regimes of Madness and…


What a line!

Am I surprised that Deleuze uses a highway to exemplify what ‘our future’ will be in control societies? No. I make precisely the same connection in my Getaway in Stockholm essay published last year in M/C Journal, but about the road safety industry being an institution within the control societies. This is a much more specific point than that of Deleuze above. He needed a language that allowed him to express the freedom of the highway more accurately, and this is the language of ‘automobility’, and then about the way automobility is regulated.

Maybe a Road Safety Industry/Control Societies essay is worth writing?

11 replies on “Our Future”

  1. Don’t get caught up on the institutional (-ized) elements of control: he’s also clearly referring to the immanent properties of control – the natural flow of traffic which is, essentially, only governed by the cars in front, behind and beside you and their relative anticipation of problems further up the road. A self-regulating highway doesn’t need police surveillance.

  2. “A self-regulating highway doesn’t need police surveillance.”

    I totally agree. If you see my linked essay I make the same point. However, I complicate Deleuze’s simplistic sort of equation of ‘freedom of automobility’ = ‘immanent self-regulation’. The capacity to ‘anticipate’ requires one to have a perceptual apparatus conditioned to recognise the consistency of the duration of automobolised time-space. For a funny representation of this not happening, see the early scene in the recent Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film.

    On one level, this is an effect of a kind of ‘disciplinisation’, but not in the mechanistic sense that Foucault’s thesis has often been reduced to. As Deleuze acknowledges (from the oft quoted essay) in these so-called control societies “older methods, borrowed from the former societies of sovereignty, will return to the fore, but with the necessary modifications.” My ‘Getaway’ essay is precisely an exploration of one ‘line of flight’, not at the point of disciplinarity, in the traditional form of resistance, because the dudes that make the Getaway in Stockholm films are highly trained (ie conditioned) drivers, but at the form of control or modulation.

    It is the utter pervasiveness of the system of automobility that means from the time we learn to cross the road we are being conditioned to becoming subjects of automobility (I use the ‘before you cross the road’ song as an example of the road safety refrain). This is the governmental responsibility of the road safety industry. They work on the same techniques as advertising and marketing. Deleuze writes that “[m]arketing has become the center or the “soul” of the corporation” and you’ll note I refer to it as the road safety *industry*, because it is an industry. I am sure road safety people have the best intentions, yet the business they are in exists between governmental forms of regulation (insurance, etc) and commercial-industrial concerns of the automotive industry. The road safety industry exists within that synergistic space between the the commercial and the governmental. Insurance companies and road safety research groups often frame road safety initiatives or research in terms of ‘consumer rights’ when the nature of the ‘consumer’ is necessarily assumed to be an automobilised road user. For them the production of safe road user populations is akin to the production of consumer populations in the form of markets. I agree with Deleuze when he adds, “[t]he operation of markets is now the instrument of social control and forms the impudent breed of our masters.” Most of my dissertation has been angled towards unpacking the thesis of this line in the slightly different context of enthusiast populations/markets. In the road safety industry statistics take on a very special role because they are used both in the governmental form and in their marketing resarch form.

    And, as you note, the end result of the constitution of these road user populations is that they don’t need actual police surveillance (well, most don’t, enter the figure of the ‘hoon’ as ‘bad road user’, the image of which is used in aforementioned governmental marketing campaigns). This is because the act of surveillance is so well internalised. For example, the function of permenant speed cameras and ‘fleet in being’ mobile cameras (not sure if you have speed cameras in Canada? i think you probably must) is to not simply catch speeding drivers, but reinforce the fact that speeding drivers could be caught and trigger this realisation in road user populations. To actually police the amount of roads in Australia would be economically prohibitive.

  3. Hi Glen (yes, it’s Luca and suggestions/opinions are always welcomed), I don’t know much about Deleuze specific use of ‘event’. Can you provide to me some more detailed information or reference? I’m using the sociological pair event/relation to observe two different kind of phenomena. The first, that I call event happens without history, the second need a history and an historical relation to be possible. If applied to the property this pair is the pair usage/property. You can use something once in the time but property is some kind usage with an history: property is the assurance that you will be able to use something in the future. I don’t know how much this could fit in Deleuze theory.

  4. hi luca, I am going to do a post soon based on my reading of the Fold and updating what I have written up here previously about the event. I will write it as a \”user\’s guide to the event\” (but for cultural studies!). It will be a rough draft of a paper I want to publish.

  5. i’ll have a quick look.

    aristocracy doesn’t ring any bells

    guttari’s stuff on subjectivity may be useful (particularly the conference paper on FOucualt’s work in the Guattari Reader)

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