Synopses & Reviews
The Soft Cage is the first book to detail the continuum of surveillance in the making of the United States from the slave pass to the Social Security number all the way to the many forms of computerized monitoring now shaping the post-9/11 world. The Soft Cage explores not just the history but also the politics of everyday surveillance, and explains to readers why the question of who is watching and listening is of utmost importance today. Parenti details how seemingly benign technologies E-ZPass, GPS systems in rental cars, and iris scans at airports present opportunities for a reconfiguration of the balance of power between the individual and the state. Under the aegis of security and convenience, Parenti argues, corporations and the U.S. government, often working together, have, without any oversight, substantially eroded civil liberties including the right to privacy that Americans have long taken for granted.
"The bad news is that a surveillance society of Orwellian menace is already here. The good news is that Christian Parenti has written a brilliant field guide to understanding and subverting it." Mike Davis, author of Dead Cities and City of Quartz
"Christian Parenti has done it again. Lockdown America was the most politically sophisticated and uncompromisingly astute book on the prison-industrial complex. In The Soft Cage we now have a comparable examination of the role of surveillance in shaping and maintaining social hierarchy and class power in American history. This book is well-written and lively, thorough and intelligent, historically grounded and steeped in political economy and social context. It is a must read for anyone serious about progressive political change in this country." Adolph Reed, Jr., author of Class Notes and W.E.B. DuBois and American Political Thought
"Combining archival work, modern and postmodern theoretical savvy, and a style of clarity and mounting alarm, Christian Parenti hammers out a warning: the machinery of surveillance has grandiose and universal ambitions. The Soft Cage is a cautionary tale, a history, a handbook, and a hope." Peter Linebaugh, author of The London Hanged, and co-author of The Many-Headed Hydra
"Attempts to keep an eye on Americans are nothing new, Parenti argues....when [he] sees post-September 11 not as a shift toward cracking down on civil liberties but as more of the same, many readers will likely feel he is a bit off base." Publishers Weekly
"He reminds us that privacy protects, as democracy is meant to, the marginalized, the outcast, and the different. Gives you a good stiff shake." Kirkus Reviews
From the popular historian and journalist Christian Parenti, a vivid and chilling history of surveillance in American life--from the antebellum South to the computerized landscape of the futuristic present.
This work details the continuum of surveillance in the making of the United States - from the slave pass to the Social Security number all the way to the many forms of computerized monitoring shaping the post-9/11 world.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 213-256) and index.
About the Author
Christian Parenti is the author of Lockdown America. His writing appears regularly in The Nation, the San Diego Union Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He has a Ph.D. in sociology from the London School of Economics and is currently a Soros Senior Justice Fellow at the Open Society Institute and a fellow at the Center for the Study of Place, Culture and Politics, CUNY Graduate Center. He lives in Brooklyn.
Table of Contents
Life in the glass box -- Antebellum ID : genealogies of identification and registration -- The accumulation of bodies, Part 1 : Identification and photography -- The accumulation of bodies, Part 2 : Early biometrics -- Cruel Gan Saan : surveillance and Chinese exclusion -- Of ones and zeros : digital surveillance emerges -- Surveillance and the sinews of commerce -- Camera land : security aesthetics and public space -- The digital leash : mobility and freedom -- The new Taylorism : surveillance, work, and discipline -- The benevolent gaze : dossiers and the helping professions -- The eye of justice -- Voyeurism and security culture -- Fear as institution : 9/11 and surveillance triumphant.