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The 'Surveillance Society': Questions of History, Place and Culture

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Murakami Wood


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The concept of the `surveillance society' has become a central part of the emerging transdisciplinary narrative of surveillance studies, and is now to be found as much in criminology as in many of the other domains upon which it draws. This piece takes on two key problems generated by contemporary use of the term `surveillance society'; those of its historical novelty and its general geographical or cultural generalizability. In this article, I show that the historical development of arguments about surveillance have created particular and changing ideas of the `surveillance society'. However the contemporary period opens up questions of geography and culture. With reference to the comparative case of Japan, I argue both that a contextual understanding of both surveillance and `surveillance society' is crucial. While surveillance is involved with processes of globalization, it is also not necessarily the same `surveillance society' that one sees in different places and at different scales. Surveillance is historically, spatially and culturally located.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Murakami Wood D

Publication type: Article

Journal: European Journal of Criminology

Year: 2009

Volume: 44

Issue: 2

Pages: 179-194

ISSN (print): 1477-3708

ISSN (electronic): 1741-2609

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1477370808100545


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