The surveillant assemblage

Br J Sociol. 2000 Dec;51(4):605-22. doi: 10.1080/00071310020015280.


George Orwell's 'Big Brother' and Michel Foucault's 'panopticon' have dominated discussion of contemporary developments in surveillance. While such metaphors draw our attention to important attributes of surveillance, they also miss some recent dynamics in its operation. The work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari is used to analyse the convergence of once discrete surveillance systems. The resultant 'surveillant assemblage' operates by abstracting human bodies from their territorial settings, and separating them into a series of discrete flows. These flows are then reassembled in different locations as discrete and virtual 'data doubles'. The surveillant assemblage transforms the purposes of surveillance and the hierarchies of surveillance, as well as the institution of privacy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Confidentiality*
  • Humans
  • Medicine in Literature
  • Patient Advocacy*
  • Philosophy, Medical
  • Privacy*
  • Security Measures / organization & administration*
  • Social Control, Formal / methods*
  • Sociology, Medical*
  • Symbolism