What do you understand by the term surveillance

What do you understand by the term surveillance. Measure the claim that health care

is a signifier of surveillance.

Surveillance, as a sociological construct envisages healthcare as a agency of exerting control over society and guaranting conformance within the population. The term was used by the Gallic sociologist Michel Foucault who theorised that modern societies have two grounds for the systematic ordinance of the organic structure. First due to the population force per unit areas produced by urbanization and secondly to run into the demands of industrial capitalist economy ( Jones 2003, p124-125 ) .

What did Foucault intend precisely by the term surveillance? Writing in the 1970s, Foucault focused on how populations are regulated and single organic structures are disciplined ( Fulcher and Scott 2003 p279 ) . He used the illustration of gender to show this. He argued that the population was something to be monitored and regulated as a resource since it was critical to the procedure of maximizing national wealth and power. Because of this, the province took a much greater involvement in the wellness of the population since productiveness, prosperity, defense mechanism capableness and growing rates were all dependant on the province of the nation’s wellness ( Giddens 2001, p154 ) . Therefore, for illustration, sexual behavior had to be controlled. It was a agency of reproducing and turning the population yet it could endanger the population’s wellness and wellbeing. The province, in supervising gender, collected informations about matrimony, contraceptive method, abortion rates and sexual behavior. At the same clip, it promoted strong public norms about sexual morality and what was acceptable behavior. Masturbation, homosexualism and excess matrimonial sex were all condemned as perversions. ( Giddens, 2003, p154 )

Fulcher and Scott outline the two ways by which society ( harmonizing to Foucault ) exerted control over human biological science. First there was the demographic control- ordinance – of whole populations and secondly there was the anatomical control – discipline- of single human organic structures.

‘Population’ is a comparatively new term, merely coming into usage at the terminal of the 18Thursdaycentury as prima states worked to increase their wealth and productiveness. At this phase it was recognised the nation’s power depended on its population. This in bend, depended on the sexual behavior of its members. Harmonizing to Foucault, ‘at the bosom of this economic and political job of population was sex: it was necessary to analyze the birth rate, the age of matrimony, the legitimate and illicit births, the precociousness and frequence of sexual dealingss, the ways of doing them fertile or unfertile, the effects of single life or of the prohibitions, the impact of prophylactic practices’ ( cited Fulcher and Scott, 2003, p273-274 ) . Not merely did the sex life of the population become an country of research for the state province, it became an country where they explicitly tried to act upon people’s behavior. As Fulcher and Scott comment, ‘Sex became a public issue to be regulated through techniques of surveillance and intervention’ ( 2003, p274 ) .

The 2nd signifier of power exerted by the province harmonizing to Foucault, was anatomical control or training the organic structure. This was based on a construct of the organic structure as ‘a mechanism with capablenesss and accomplishments that had to be optimised in order to increase its usefulness and to incorporate it into efficient economic terms’ ( Fulcher and Scott 2003, p275 ) . However, this did non mention entirely to the physical capablenesss of the organic structure, but besides to the mental and emotional wellness: ‘new techniques of societal control were developed that affected the organic structure merely as a manner of act uponing the head. Surveillance and the defining of motivations, runing through consciousness and linguistic communication were seen as more effectual methods of control than force and coercion.’ ( Fulcher and Scott 2003, p275 ) .

Foucault characterises this ordinance and subject as ‘bio-politics’ . It is one of a figure of discourses used as a agency of societal control. In add-on, human ecology, poenology and theories of instruction are harmonizing to Jones, ‘modern signifiers of cognition deemed necessary to command and patrol the accretion, concentration and fold of organic structures in modern environments’ ( Jones 2003, p126 ) .

As Jones lineations, modern life can be understood mostly in footings of the extent to which we worlds have become capable to the power of medical definitions of normalcy and aberrance, ‘the power of impressions of wellness and unwellness in our lives is correspondent to the power of impressions of good and evil in the lives of pre-modern humans’ ( 2003, p126 ) .

Harmonizing to Foucault, the exercising of this power is a signifier of surveillance to guarantee the conformance of a population to peculiar impressions of truth and prevarications and good and evil ( p127 ) . He went every bit far as to propose that medical specialty has taken over from faith in its laterality and referred to the ‘medical’ or ‘clinical gaze’ .

This clinical regard referred to a peculiar manner of sing organic structures and their diseases by concentrating on the implicit in pathology. This regard was a aspect of a new sort of power which relied on surveillance and review. As infirmaries became establishments, physicians had entree to of all time larger Numberss of patients to analyze and research. As Marsh et al remark, ‘for Foucault, the infirmary was merely one illustration of the sorts of establishment which developed in modern secular societies ( the school and the prison were others ) which were sites at which the province could command the population’ ( Marsh et al 2001, p459 ) .

In the modern universe, whether intentionally or otherwise, it would look that medical specialty has assumed the function of faith. Turner expresses this position compactly when he says,

‘put merely, the physician has replaced the priest as the keeper of societal values: the panoply of ecclesiastical establishments of regulation…have been transferred through the development of scientific medical specialty to a panoptic aggregation of localized bureaus of surveillance and control’ ( 1987 pp37-38 ) .

One facet of this increased surveillance and control can be seen in the procedure of ‘medicalisation’ of modern life. This procedure is defined by Jones ( 2003 ) as ‘the manner in which universally experienced characteristics and maps of human being are, in modernness, appropriated and commandeered by medical specialty, defined in footings of its indispensable classs of wellness and unwellness and managed accordingly.’ Examples include decease, childbearing, mental status and even matrimony. Croft and Beresford ( 1998 ) argue that decease has become medicalised but besides indicate out that this is get downing to be challenged by ‘the outgrowth of new discourses from the handicapped people’s and societal service users movements’ ( cited Bilton et al 2002, p367 ) .Giddens gives another illustration in the medicalisation of hyperactivity. Statisticss show that about 3 % of kids ( 5-18 year ) in the US are on the drug Ritalin for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder ADHD. It helps kids to be more unagitated and focused and has been hailed by some as a ‘magic pill’ . Others argue that it is simply a convenient solution to what is non even a physical job. ( Giddens, 2001, p157 ) They point to the altering nature of childhood in today’s society- fractured household lives, extremely processed diets, deficiency of exercising etc and say that these societal contexts should be looked at every bit opposed to merely calming hard kids in order to get by with them.

At this degree, it could be argued that health care is a signifier of societal control in that it proposes medical solutions to societal jobs. Our lives are progressively influenced and even structured around modern medical specialty since the cardinal points of life have become medicalised, that is birth and decease. At the same clip, the medical profession has a high position and physicians are respected and seldom challenged by patients. However, two points must be noted. First, our health care system means that people are populating longer and have more entree to interventions to better their quality of life than of all time before. It is hard to see this ever as an exercising in commanding and ruling a population. Besides in recent old ages alternate therapies have grown in influence. Acupuncture, aromatherapy and reflexology all are illustrations of interventions non based on conventional, western medical norms. This shows that people are exerting pick in their ain health care and recognising that medical specialty is more than merely infirmaries and prescriptions. There is besides a turning acknowledgment that lifestyle factors, emphasis, diet, relationships are all of import to our physical and emotional wellness.

The move in recent times from a focal point on infirmaries to a focal point on community attention is another statement against health care as societal control, although faultfinders may reason that it is simply an effort to switch the load off from over-subscribed and under-resourced infirmaries. What is clear nevertheless, is that in modern times, medical specialty is recognised for the powerful force that it is and with promotions in engineering and information systems, medical specialty can merely increase its possible as a force which does so exercise a considerable influence over our lives.


Bilton T, Bonnett K, Jones P, Lawson T, Skinner D, Stanworth M, Webster A, ( 2002 )Introductory Sociology4ThursdayEd London: Palgrave

Fulcher, Scott, 2003Sociology2nd Ed Oxford: Oxford University Press

Giddens A, ( 2001 )SociologyCambridge: Polity Press

Jones P, ( 2003 )Introduction to Social TheoryCambridge: Polity Press

Marsh I et al, ( 2001 )Sociology: Making Sense of SocietyLondon: Palgrave