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Exposed
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Bernard E. Harcourt is Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia University and Directeur d'etudes at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales, Paris.

Reviews

We live in what Harcourt calls an expository society: where privacy is no longer a core value and 'all the formerly coercive surveillance technology is now woven into the very fabric of our pleasure and fantasies'... The force of his new book lies in his synthesis of a huge amount of history and theory, ranging from the Ancient Greeks to the twentieth century, into a persuasive picture of how and why we have stopped valuing privacy... So why don't people care more about their privacy? Harcourt's book is forceful and passionate, theoretically advanced, and persuasive about the dangers of an alliance between the government and the for-profit sector. The rigorous reader will be very satisfied by his precise use of terminology, and by the fact that he does not set up an absolute dichotomy between freedom and technology. But he also acknowledges that knowledge of these practices doesn't seem to be enough to move people to action... When Harcourt points out that wearing the Apple Watch essentially turns consumers into parolees, he gives us a very powerful way to think about our present state, one that we need more of. Because we won't care about privacy until we feel its absence as a loss, a physical limitation, an affront.

-- (11/18/2015)
Real and imaginary panopticons of incarceration from centuries past pale in comparison with those that surround us today. Rather than acquiescing to structures of command and surveillance by force, against our will, and in confinement, we have surrendered to them voluntarily, without duress, and at scale. The condition of willful exposure Harcourt describes in his book challenges well-worn tropes of critical theory...The expository society, as Harcourt calls this emerging assemblage of technology, practice, norms, and institutions, frustrates long-held intuitions about spectacle and surveillance, inside and outside, public and private. We live in an expository society, Harcourt writes, in a society of willful exposure and exhibition. In this perverse light, the inability to expose oneself seems like punishment. And the reward for being watched--liked, favorited, followed--is personal affirmation. Under the emerging regime there is no need for metal bars, cells, or watchtowers. We enter into the hall of mirrors willingly. We demand entrance. And we expose ourselves in return...We have only begun to understand the personal and political implications of the expository society in which surveillance is both more total and more voluntary than was ever imagined. The nightmare of George Orwell's 1984 is in some ways less intrusive than the reality of 2016. Harcourt's book ultimately points to the desire at the root of our need for exposure...Exposed sounds a timely alarm about the proliferation of such seemingly banal but powerful surveillance mechanisms...We do not live under a tyrannical regime today. But Harcourt's book does identify infrastructures that have the potential to invite tyranny.-- (02/05/2016)
The most socially alarming effect of the digital revolution is the state of continuous surveillance endured, with varying levels of complaisance, by everyone who uses a smartphone. Bernard Harcourt's intellectually energetic book Exposed surveys the damage inflicted on privacy by spy agencies and private corporations, encouraged by citizens who post constant online updates about themselves...Harcourt describes a new kind of psyche that seeks, through its exposed virtual self, satisfactions of approval and notoriety that it can never truly find. It exists in order to be observed.-- (06/23/2016)

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