It is unreal how the past philosophers were so aware of what society would become solely through observation! One such prominent observer was Gilles Deleuze, a French philosopher who contributed to multiple fields such as politics, ontology, anthropology, and much more. The focus of this article, however, will be on his views of society and how it shaped the architecture we see today. Known as a pure metaphysician, Deleuze refused to believe in traditional ideas of the present and had a very fluid and dynamic understanding of reality. Most accounts revolved around identity and its regulation through flux, movement, and plurality.
The Evolution of Societies
For us, identity is defined by birth, region, profession, or more. The shifting dynamics of the world have a direct impact on what our identity is. These parameters of position in society and the rules that govern it are in the essay Postscripts on the Society of Control, written in 1990 by Gilles Deleuze. Here, the author has described that no matter how liberal we feel, a power factor will always control us.
The essay takes a unique approach by describing the evolution of societies from societies of sovereignty to discipline, which inevitably leads to societies of control. Sovereign and disciplinary societies are the initial concepts of Michael Foucault. However, Gilles Deleuze uses them as a preface for describing the evolutionary pattern to achieve societies of control.
All of these allude to the influence of architectural form on human behavior. The essay says that each society has regulated participants based on fear. While the fear was more prominent in the society of sovereignty via the king, this fear became more masked via capital punishment in the disciplinary society. Before, fear used to be regulated by tax production before the 19th century, but now it became governed using time. Currently, it will become evident that even bounds of time have been broken, and society is now regulated by access.
Are You Being Controlled?
When one is at school, one feels compelled by class timings. When one is at work, one is bound by the nine-to-five. Even reservations are time-bound; there is such a thing as Happy-hour at bars. All of these point to attributes of disciplinary societies, which define how we live our day based on timely schedules. These schedules have molded themselves so perfectly in our lifestyles that we do not realize that these are a system of control.
While the evolution of this, which Gilles Deleuze has described as the society of control, is more relevant to present technological advancements. Deleuze strides away from the time-bound individual of the disciplinary society to the individuals of control society. Here one person is dividual, being able to be identified by several numeric values controlling your access to life. At work, you are your company ID. At school, you are your test score, and even on social media, you are your password. Similarly, in the state, you are your social security number.
A dividual is governed by numbers that establish an invisible sense of control, establishing what amenities of life one can access.
Obsolete Social Enclosures – The Redefinition of the Architectural Program
Our life is defined by context. In most cases, we work toward visual cues to determine what we are supposed to do. But what if all the visual cues are contained in one device? The phone. Ever since the pandemic, what Deleuze said about dissipating enclosures has become more and more true. While in disciplinary society, we moved from one closure to another to determine our day, and these closures are what determined architectural typologies of residence, hospitality, office, education, etc.
However, if everything is contained in the digital world from shopping to learning to working, then how can we define the merits of architectural enclosures? Many intangible attributes of capitalism govern us. Where previously time spent at the workplace equaled money, now there is no reliable system to ensure reward. A dependent system of livelihood has been converted into an independent system based on stock market values and currencies.
It wouldn’t matter how much time one spends working if the value of work is diminished by market rates. This leads one to question how these models of transitions from the tangible to the intangible are so seamless, and why Deleuze’s future aligns with our present today.
The Future of Deleuze Vs the Present of Today
Describing the transition from a disciplinary society to that of control, Gilles Deleuze said:
“The Coils of a serpent are even more complex than the burrows of a molehill.”
Here, he alludes that we are no longer in an enclosure like burrows but in a self-satisfied system represented by the coils of a serpent. We make choices but are in delusion by the metrics posed in a new society. From current times, we can deduce that this delusion comes about with the theory of cybernetics. In short, these systems are governed by feedback catering to our wants, providing a different sense of reality.
Even the freeways, which make us feel we can go anywhere without restriction, are described by the philosopher as branches of control. Even with the advent of the metaverse, the possibilities of “freedom” seem endless. But at the end of the day, it’s still a whole system under the shadow of digital control. In conclusion, this present system of control society is so intricate that it is impossible to escape. The system will continue to govern our lives whether we become aware of it or not.
Deleuze – Control Societies & Cybernetic Posthumanism (2020) YouTube. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu4Cq_-bLlY&t=870s&ab_channel=PlasticPills (Accessed: March 6, 2023).
Deleuze, G. (2017) “Postscript on the societies of control*,” Surveillance, Crime and Social Control, pp. 35–39. Available at: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315242002-3.
Smith, D., Protevi, J. and Voss, D. (2022) Gilles Deleuze, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Available at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/deleuze/ (Accessed: March 6, 2023).
What are societies of control? (2019) YouTube. YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_i8_WuyqAY&ab_channel=Jonas%C4%8Ceika-CCKPhilosophy (Accessed: March 6, 2023).