Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Tyler King, The Hacker ‘Ethic:’ Digital Infrastructures as the Battleground of Conflicting Liberalism, Society and Space, 2018


Although increased internet security and greater public internet access may seem somewhat counterintuitive, both ideals were mobilized and justified through liberal means in order to promote this state agenda. Michel Foucault’s (1977-1978: 18-20) analysis of the development of traditional, physical infrastructures of mobility in the modern city serves as an analogy for Clinton’s liberal internet security and increased public access agenda. As described by Foucault in his collection of lectures titled “Security, Territory, Population”, modern towns needed a wide array of interconnected roads in order to ensure growth in trade, which simultaneously created more points of insecurity. This growth in insecurity also had the corollary effect of restricting the state’s ability to know or predict all that was happening (or would happen) within their jurisdiction. A new form of government rationality, what Foucault (1977-1978) originally called the “apparatus of security”, and later “governmentality”, was needed in order to successfully regulate the unpredictability that arose within the modern city.

Foucault also describes security in the liberal state as having three main traits: it deals with possibilities and probabilities (for example, through the development of statistics) rather than absolutes; it conducts cost-benefit analyses in order to determine courses of action; and it avoids binary markers of the accepted and the forbidden, instead electing to create a broader spectrum of the permissible (Gordon 1991: 20). Like the physical infrastructures of the modern city, the expansion of cyber space during the Clinton administration created similar tensions between the need for economic growth and the potential for increased points of insecurity. Furthermore, the lack of any “real” physical or spatially demarcated borders in cyber space undoubtedly created additional challenges for national security.[1]

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