Not Available For Download

Normal Discipline in the Age of Crisis

Posted: 4 Aug 2004  

Julie E. Cohen

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: August 4, 2004


NOTE: A later version of this paper is now available. Please see SSRN no. 892623.

As a byproduct of the asserted imperative to control flows of unauthorized information, purveyors of intellectual goods are moving to build into delivery systems for digital information a range of capabilities that insert both surveillance and enforcement functions into private spaces and embed these functions within communications networks, protocols, and devices. This essay offers a framework for theorizing this process that is informed substantially by the work of Michel Foucault and Anthony Giddens. The extension of intellectual property enforcement into private spaces and throughout communications networks can be understood as a species of disciplinary regime similar to those that Foucault sought to understand, but it is not exactly like any of those studied by Foucault. Instead, it represents a new, hybrid type, which locates the justification for its pervasive reach in a permanent state of crisis. Although the success of this hybrid disciplinary project is not yet assured, the model of social change elaborated by Giddens suggests that its odds of success are by no means remote. Power to implement this discipline in the marketplace for digital content arises from a confluence of private and public interests and is amplified by the dynamics of technical standards processes. The emergent model of crisis discipline has profound implications for both the production of behavior and the production of information spaces, and raises pressing questions about the future of the networked information society.

Keywords: Copyright, DRM, privacy, discipline, surveillance, crisis

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Julie E., Normal Discipline in the Age of Crisis (August 4, 2004). Georgetown University Law Center, Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 572486. Available at SSRN: or

Julie E. Cohen (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9871 (Phone)
202-662-9411 (Fax)


Paper statistics

Abstract Views