Spaces of Appearance and Spaces of Surveillance
Polity, Vol. 44, No. 1, January 2012
41 Pages Posted: 2 Dec 2007 Last revised: 8 Sep 2011
Date Written: July 25, 2011
Hannah Arendt and Michel Foucault present two different but complementary models of the way in which visibility and power are related. In an Arendtian “space of appearance,” the common visibility of actors generates power as the potential for collective action, whereas in a Foucauldian “space of surveillance” the visibility of some is used as an instrument of control and normalization. Power in spaces of appearance depends on and reproduces horizontal relationships of equality, whereas power in spaces of surveillance depends on and reproduces vertical relationships of inequality. Moreover, the horizontal relationships characteristic of spaces of appearance enable participants in such spaces to escape the roles and rules that normalize or even oppress them in other spaces of social life, whereas the vertical relationships and oppressive visibility of spaces of surveillance tend to reinforce normalizing roles and rules, imposing particular identities on participants. I suggest that the contrast between a “space of appearance” and a “space of surveillance” can be used to enrich both Arendt’s and Foucault’s critiques of modern society: Arendt's by recasting her concerns with the rise of the "social" in terms of the increase in spaces of surveillance and Foucault's by sharpening his notion of "resistance."
Keywords: Arendt, Foucault, Power, Violence, Surveillance
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