Home > järelevalve, subjekt, võim > Fernanda Bruno & Paulo Vaz “Types of Self-Surveillance”

Fernanda Bruno & Paulo Vaz “Types of Self-Surveillance”

Bruno, Fernanda; Vaz, Paulo 2003. Types of Self-Surveillance: From Abnormality to Individuals ’At Risk’. Surveillance & Society 1(3): 272-291.

In fact, any practice of surveillance entails self-surveillance as its historical counterpart and it is this simultaneity that accounts for the acceptance and legitimization of power relations. (273)

Self- surveillance is usually understood as the attention one pays to one’s behavior when facing the actuality or virtuality of an immediate or mediated observation by others whose opinion he or she deems as relevant  – usually, observers of the same or superior social position. But we propose to open the concept to include individuals’ attention to their actions and thoughts when constituting themselves as subjects of their conduct. (273)

Enlarging the concept of self-surveillance also entails assuming that there is no neat line distinguishing power from care. The crucial point is that individuals usually problematize their thoughts and behaviors through beliefs held as true in their historical context. (273)

We contend that self-surveillance does not depend only on an “invisible but unverifiable” power (Foucault, 1979: p. 201), but also on normalizing judgment. (274)

Today, on the contrary, individuals accept restricting their behavior in order to care for the ir health even and principally when they experience well-being. Contemporary medicine is producing the strange status of individuals ‘at risk’ (Lupton, 1995; Ogden, 1995, Novas and Rose, 2000; Petersen and Bunton, 2002), who can be viewed in fact as ‘patients before their time’ (Jacob, 1998: 102). We will thus argue that the alleged amplification of individual capacity to determine the shape of their future constitutes, in fact, a limitation to our freedom. (274)

Although normalizing judgment can be understood as an infra-penalty that partitioned an area that the law had left empty  – the vast domain of gestures, attitudes, quotidian activities, tasks, discourses, uses of time, habits, etc.  – its real novelty resides in the fact that these micro-penalties are not addressed so much at what one does, but at who one is (Foucault, 1979: 178). (277)

This ‘dividing practice’ must not be understood as only something that is imposed from the exterior upon individuals. On the contrary, the classification of each individual along the polarity ranging from normal to abnormal achieves its goal if it is active in the interior of individuals, if it makes them judge and conceive themselves according to this polarity. (277)

Individuals, then, fear potential abnormality not only in others but also within themselves, and thus refrain from doing what would characterize them, in their own eyes, as abnormal. The norm becomes the object of individuals’ desire instead of being only externally imposed. After all, where can the norm extract its value if not from that which it tries to negate? (278)

The greatest values of our society seem to be, in the relation with the self, well-being, prolonged youth, security, self-control and efficiency. These values imply the care of the self, directed towards risk and loss of control as the negativities to be avoided by individuals when thinking about what they can and should do. The problematic internal zone to be surveilled appears to be delimited by the concepts of risk, self-control and pleasure. (281)

The political aspects of risk are not restricted to the allocation of blame; they include creating  new dangers and ‘empowering’ individuals to confront them. (282)

To summarize, as risk works upon the distance between momentary pleasures and the possibility that  these pleasures may threaten the continuity of a pleasurable life, ‘sacrifice’ is aimed at keeping oneself alive and consuming. It is a compromise of sorts, between the instant logic of hedonism and the continuity of consumption, for the only possible reward for moderating pleasure at any given moment is its continued renewal multiplied by an extension of life’s duration. (285)

Until now, a person became ‘sick’ only after symptoms appeared. People would go to the doctor complaining of a few aches and pain. With availability of the data on the genome, future illnesses or risk of illnesses will be revealed… People will become patients before their time. Their condition, their future will be discussed in medical terms even though they feel fine and will remain in good health for years. (Jacob, 1998, p. 102). (287 – Jacob. F. (1998) Of Flies, Mice, and Men. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.)

Life now depends on knowing how to behave in the distance between everything that may happen and what is more probable of happening; it depends on the restriction of possibilities  – and not upon their invention and posterior realization. (287)

As one way of care emerges, it relegates others to historical forgetting. Certain ways of being a subject become historical impossibilities. Besides, each form of the care of the self has its own limits. We have argued that the limits in our way of caring are related to the status of the future. The future as risk functions, in reality, as a restriction to what can be done in the present and it may signify the disappearance of the future as an alterity to the present. The longing for a different life and even the belief in its possibility might be lost in the vicious circle produced by hedonism and security. (288)

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