Totalizing Institutions, Critique and Resistance

Iain Mackenzie, Robert Porter

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Drawing on Deleuze’s ‘Postscript on Control Societies’, our initial focus in this article will be on the role of institutions within societies of control, an analysis which brings Deleuze into the orbit of Ervin Goffman’s famous ethnographic work on total institutions. This cross-comparative analysis of Deleuze and Goffman (also montaged with Foucault’s important work on disciplinary institutions) will allow us to show how institutions of control function by sequencing ‘dividuals’ across institutional domains in a continual process of totalization. Inspired by James Williams’s recent work on the ‘process philosophy of signs’, we then argue that a critique of totalizing institutions can be positively articulated as a process-oriented challenge to algorithmic technologies and as a counter-sequencing of institutional control. We conclude with some reflections on the emergent modes of resistance that challenge both institutional and technological control, and we will proffer criteria for assessing such practices in relation to the two-sided nature of critique they enact, both processual and counter-sequential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalContemporary Political Theory
Early online date16 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished online - 16 Jul 2019


  • societies of control, totalizing institutions, critique, resistance, Deleuze, Goffman, Foucault.
  • Goffman
  • Deleuze
  • societies of control
  • critique
  • totalizing institutions
  • Foucault
  • resistance


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