The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy Of Personal Information
The consensus is clear. Personal privacy will become the dominant issue of the 1990s. Yet a focus on privacy, as we have come to understand it so far, all but guarantees that we ignore the implications of the privacy debate at the more fundamental levels of individual autonomy, collective agency, and bureaucratic control. The Panoptic Sort helps us to understand just what is at stake when the bureaucracies of government and commerce gather, share, and make use of an almost unlimited amount of personal information to manage the social and economic systems within their spheres. Unlike Foucault's panoptic prison, which involved continual, all-encompassing surveillance, the current panoptic system depends upon the ability of operators to classify and then separate disciplinary subjects into groups in a way that increases the efficiency with which the techniques of correct training or rehabilitation may be applied to each individual. This book describes in full detail the design and use of the panoptic operation, with examples from marketing, employment, insurance, credit management, and the provision of governmental social services.
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