9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS05 Historical Sociology

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Social Europe in Historical Perspective Building II, C3.02

Electronic ID Cards in the Societies of Control

The establishment of electronic ID cards is a point of major controversies throughout the world, especially in Europe. These high-tech cards usually contain biometric information and are linked to national searchable databases which enable the authorities to sort and categorize people continuously and which consequently increase the pressure on the disadvantaged groups greatly.

However, neither the identification documents nor the desire to categorize people are new. That is the reason why the emergence of electronic ID cards should be analyzed from a historical perspective by means of taking into account the continuities as well as discontinuities in the rationalities of the state and the type of subjectivities that are linked to these rationalities.

Following Foucauldian genealogical path, in this paper, firstly the emergence of identification practices will be discussed with an emphasis on the relations between the modern state, surveillance and modern conceptions of subjectivity. The works of such theorists as Giddens, Dandeker, Torpey, Caplan, Noiriel, Hacking, Higgs et al. will be used to provide a history of ID cards as tools of governance.

In the second part, the continuities and discontinuities of rule in terms of ID cards will be discussed with reference to the Deleuze's society of control in which the transformations in capitalism and the changing composition of nation-states with the globalization will also be emphasized. Combining the works of such contemporary surveillance theorists as Lyon, Haggerty, Ericson, Walters, Bigo, Bogard et. al. with those of neoliberal governmentality scholars such as Rose, Dean, Gordon, Lemke, Ong et. al., it will be argued that electronic ID cards emerge as perfect tools of governance in the society of control in the sense that they secure the places of those who conduct themselves in a neoliberal way (active, self-enterprising subjects) from the presence of those who are failed to do so (growing hordes of immigrants, third world proletariats, welfare dependants) by means of tying the exercising of citizenship to a legitimate database record. In that sense, this paper also aims to contribute to the debates on whether EU is sincere in its call for the integration of different groups.