Digital Rule: Punishment, Control and Technology

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This article develops a theoretical model of 'digital rule'. This is a form of at-a-distance monitoring which becomes possible with the advent of certain electronic technologies. It is argued that this form of monitoring gives rise to a related form of decision-making, and to particular forms of punishment, both directly and indirectly. The article begins with a review of Foucault's work on 'discipline'. It is argued that while his general approach remains useful, his 'technology of power' model requires updating, because of certain moves within many criminal justice systems away from reliance on the disciplinary techniques Foucault associates with modernity. I argue that comments by Deleuze suggest a way of developing a theoretical adjunct to Foucault's model, and this new control form I characterize as one of 'digital rule'. Various emerging electronic technologies are examined, and it is shown how they operate specifically through restrictions specified in terms of time and space. The relationship between formal control, exclusion and punishment measures is considered, and it is concluded that in this emerging form of rule, these aspects continue to have a very close relationship, taking form here in a particular new way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalPunishment and Society: The International Journal of Penology
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • Surveillance, Social control, Foucault, Governance-at-a-distance, Flows


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