On Tuesday 6 June 2017 Matt Hall successfully defended his PhD thesis, coming away with typographical corrections only. His examiners were Martin Coward (Reader, University of Manchester) and Lee Jarvis (Professor, University of East Anglia). Matt was supervised by Jonathan Seglow and Ben O'Loughlin. He was the winner of an ESRC DTC scholarship. Please find details below of his excellent thesis.
Liberal Democratic Surveillance: Rules, Legitimacy and the Institutionalisation of Domination
The proliferation of public debate around surveillance over the past couple of decades has been marked by defeat for those objecting to it. This thesis sets out to understand not what harms surveillance brings to values held dear to liberal democracy - like privacy, liberty and political rights to protest - but instead, why it is that surveillance is so widespread in societies that values these things.
Most public and liberal objections to surveillance commonly seek to use liberal values like privacy and liberty on the one hand, and democratic values such as equality on the other, to shield against the harms that surveillance can bring. Surveillance is seen broadly as an external harm to liberal and democratic values, and commonly the task of study is to identify instances where surveillance is perceived to be going wrong, being excessively harmful, being used disproportionately, or is mistaken. These kinds of common objections, confident in the role liberal values can play, implicitly hold that surveillance, when properly limited and justified, is nothing to be fearful of. I argue instead that liberal democratic values are implicated in surveillance, not independent protections against it. If rules govern how liberal democratic values are protected and/or violated then surveillance, as a ‘technique for securing full compliance with a given set of institutional rules’ (as I will define it), is inextricably part of the institutionalisation of liberal and democratic values. Drawing on ‘realist’ insights into institutional rule making, I seek to explain how value-laden rules, which guide surveillance into practice, are politically contested. If we want to understand the expansion of surveillance, and over whom it is most harmfully applied, we need to understand the politics behind the rules that surveillance enforces.