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Towards a Critical Theory of Surveillance in Informational Capitalism

Thomas Allmer

The aim of this book is to clarify how surveillance in informational capitalism can be theorised. This work constructs theoretically founded typologies in order to systemise the existing literature of surveillance studies and to analyse selected examples. It argues that conventional surveillance theories are insufficient for studying surveillance in general and Internet surveillance in particular. In contrast, a typology of surveillance in informational capitalism, which is based on the foundations of a critical political economy approach, allows to systemise and to analyse (online) surveillance in the spheres of production, circulation, and consumption. In conclusion, political recommendations are drawn in order to overcome surveillance in informational capitalism.


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5. A Critical Contribution to Internet Surveillance Studies


The overall aim of this chapter is to analyse the specific economic mode of Internet surveillance. Based on the distinction of surveillance in the economy into the spheres of production, circulation, and consumption from chapter three, a typology of online surveillance in the economy can be constructed. Economic surveillance on the Internet in the spheres of production, circulation, and consumption will be outlined. The following three sections are therefore structured according to this distinction. The chapter concludes with a summary in section four. 5.1. INTERNET SURVEILLANCE IN THE SPHERE OF PRODUCTION As analysed in chapter two, Marx argues that surveillance is important for the capi- talist process of production and is used for generating absolute and relative surplus value in order to accumulate profit. For explaining newer forms of surveillance in the process of production, the emergence of scientific management was analysed. The mechanical engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor developed the concept of sci- entific management, where the meaning of knowledge and information as produc- tive force has permanently increased and management gathers knowledge of the labour process and uses this knowledge in order to control the labour process. Ac- cording to Robins and Webster (1999, 98ff.), for understanding modern forms of surveillance such as Internet surveillance in the sphere of production, the transfor- mation from a Fordist system of mass production to a post-Fordist system of flexi- ble production has to be analysed. Therefore I will now give a short overview of some characteristics of what in the French regulation...

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