On Paper Surveillance

An interesting article was just posted reviewing Ben Kafka's recent book The Demon of Paperwork: Powers and Failures of Paperwork. It's interesting in pointing out the bureaucratic nature of writing, and, more importantly its optimistic promise of the power of transparency in making governments accountable. Precisely here, the gordian knot of surveillance and citizenship is tied.

The hope of some of the French revolutionaries was that paperwork would rationalize the state, that it would depersonalize power and destroy the corrupt networks of aristocratic influence.... While this desire can turn documentation into what Kafka calls a “technology of political representation” by which citizens can track whether the state is serving their interests, it also makes paperwork into a voracious medium that authorizes blanket surveillance of citizens and their reconstitution as vulnerable data sets as a condition of citizenship. You are no one without your permanent file. Part of Kafka’s achievement in The Demon of Paperwork is to show how readily revolutionary optimism is undone by administrative surveillance, even when it’s adopted in the revolution’s name. Revolution promises to wash away the most intractable social problems, but then paperwork rears itself to show that these problems have only been displaced to an impersonal and intractable medium.

Paperwork Against the People" Dissent - http://bit.ly/Y4vCzZ