The medieval origins of mass surveillance

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Paging Michel Foucault…


It’s fascinating how many of the saintly models would now - in light of a much greater understanding of human sexuality - be basically considered committed BDSM lifestyles. (E.g. Catherine of Siena and many others.)


@marjaE and I were recently arguing over the timing of modernity. I opined that “modernity” is typically taken to refer to the modern project. She argued that demographic changes resulting from Black Death have had much more impact on Europe than any changes in philosophical style, And from an archeological point of view; from a historian’s point of view, this is quite true…

But it got me thinking about the mechanization of warfare–the use of human ingenuity to create factories of death, the special planning it takes to kill hundreds of thousands with the utmost efficiencies and it’s role as the cleanser of the world.

But this focus on human ingenuity for evil elides over certain other demographic events which can’t be blamed on human engineering. The Black Death killed between 75 and 200 million people. No human can be blamed for its design. But God can.

If the Panopticon of God is replaced by the Panopticon of Man it is more horrifying because while “God works in Mysterious Ways”, the watchful eye of the state can be understood to act with expediency, with efficiency, and without pity.


The legalistic understanding of sin and salvation necessary for all this is more a feature of Western Christianity. It never really caught on in with the Eastern or Oriental Orthodox. And there’s nothing AFAIK that obviously supports it in pre-Augustinian Christian literature.

Interesting article. Worth a read. “Bedrock of the faith” claim unfounded.


Marja’s still about, just not posting? Cool, I thought she’d gone. Hi, @MarjaE!

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I <3 Foucault. Great gif!

One of his funnier moments (from “That Time Foucault Got Paid in Hash to Debate Noam Chomsky”):

[quote]James Miller notes in “The Passion of Michel Foucault,” the anarchist Dutch host, Fons Elders, wanted to jazz things up a bit. So, aside from offering Foucault hashish for part of his payment, Elder tried repeatedly to get Foucault to wear a bright red wig while debating Chomsky. Throughout the debate “Elders kept poking Foucault under the table, pointing to the red wig on his lap, and whispering, ‘put it on, put it on.’” Foucault ignored him, robbing posterity of the memory, and the Foucault-Chomsky debate remains wig-less.

As for the “large chunk of hashish,” that he received as partial payment, Foucault brought it back home where he and “his Parisian friends would jokingly refer to [it] as ‘Chomsky Hash.’”[/quote]



Nah, I know her in meatspace.


oh yes, he was cited : )


Ah. Well, give her my cyber-regards then.


Always cite Foucault! :wink:

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This article resonates with my own suspicion that, for some very powerful people, the endgame is full-on medievalism, including an end to both social and geographic mobility. There are already a few dynasties that you know about, and quite a few who shun publicity.

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@doctorow didn’t your aba & ima teach you that this idea was yet another thing the Christans got from the yidden?


[From the OP] “If we imagine cynical rulers and a credulous population, however, we have got it wrong. … There are numerous examples of elite women subjecting themselves to intensive regimes of confession and penance, not infrequently resulting in early death. Their actions conferred distinction upon their families and enhanced the moral legitimacy of the dynasties to which they belonged.”

Oppresion is gendered, esp. in private spaces like families. Our personal panopticon cubbies are still political.


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