Surveillance, freedom and the republic

J. Matthew Hoye*, Jeffrey Monaghan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Arbitrary state and corporate powers are helping to turn the Internet into a global surveillance dragnet. Responses to this novel form of power have been tepid and ineffective. Liberal critiques of surveillance are constrained by their focus on privacy, security and the underlying presupposition that freedom consists only of freedom from interference. By contrast, (post)Foucauldian critiques rejecting liberalism have been well rewarded analytically, but have proven incapable of addressing normative questions regarding the relationship between surveillance and freedom. Quite apart from these debates, neorepublicans have excavated a third concept of freedom, understood as non-domination. Could neorepublicanism overcome the limitations of liberal and ( post)Foucauldian critiques of surveillance? We argue, positively, that neorepublicanism can accommodate much of the (post)Foucauldian analyses while also incorporating a normative critique of surveillance vis-a-vis freedom. We further argue, negatively, that surveillance power has outstripped the capacities of traditional republican institutional responses to domination. We conclude by considering ways in which neorepublicanism can be recalibrated to address the novelty of surveillance power while adhering to the ideal of non-domination. Two ways of addressing the problem are proposed: an offensive, dedicated surveillance antipower and a defensive republican amplification of privacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-363
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Issue number3
Early online date2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Surveillance
  • Foucault
  • freedom
  • neorepublicanism
  • liberalism

Cite this