The Surveillance Industrial Complex: Towards a Political Economy of Surveillance

Ball, Kirstie and Snider, Laureen eds. (2013). The Surveillance Industrial Complex: Towards a Political Economy of Surveillance. Abingdon: Routledge.



This book examines the intersections of capital and the neo-liberal state in promoting the emergence and growth of the surveillance society. It is grounded in a broad view of the term ‘political economy’ as one which concerns the interconnection of social, political and economic processes. As the American Civil Liberties Union (2004) and Statewatch (2009) have both argued the ‘war on terror’ agenda has now given governments and corporations in the global north vast opportunities to increase both social control and profits. Unprecedented access to data on individuals, gleaned from the private sector; unprecedented funding to develop new public-private partnerships which develop surveillance applications; access for corporations to politicians in procurement processes; advisory opportunities in government for defence specialists; extensions and intensifications of border control amid a cultural climate of vigilance and fear: all of these, widely promoted in the general populace, have normalised and legitimised mass targeted surveillance deep within corporate, governmental and social structures. The chapters in this volume, written by internationally-known surveillance scholars from a number of disciplines, trace the connections between the massive multinational conglomerates that manufacture, distribute and promote technologies of “surveillance” , and the institutions of social control and civil society. The articles document the impacts of the surveillance complexes that dominate public and private spaces in cities, in educational institutions, financial services and health care, and they examine the implications for the citizen, the consumer and for those deemed “risky subjects” in today’s neo-liberal state. They describe firms’ networks that permeate all stages of the production and distribution process, from R&D, marketing, finance and consumption to infrastructure. There are specific sectors of surveillance clustering around population control, control of citizen and consumer populations and resources; other clusters may involve whole industries, as is the case in financial services.

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