Evolution of the concepts of time and surveillance

In Information Is the Alpha and Omega of Our Work, Peter Holquist details the evolution and purpose of the Soviet surveillance systems. Holquist argues the Soviet surveillance systems were not solely a Soviet phenomenon and were not restricted to the Bolshevik era of power. Instead Holquist claims the use of surveillance was a European concept and had existed prior to the Bolsheviks, with World War One as a catalyst. Surveillance differed from policing in that it’s goal was to mold, “society’s human material into a more emancipated, conscious, and superior individual”(Holquist, 417). Through surveillance the states could, “attempt to gather information on popular moods and the measures intended to transform them”(Holquist, 418). Holquist argues surveillance was directly related to the transition from an imperial state concerned more with ruling territory, to a governmental state which became more concerned with the overall mood and thoughts of the population it ruled over. This is not to say the governmental state cared about the feelings and problems of it’s people on human level, but as Holquist mentions the state was interested due to a desire to protect it’s own lifespan.

Holquist argues surveillance varied within Russia in different time periods and contrasts Imperial Russia in 1913 with Soviet Russia in 1920. Imperial Russia did have surveillance agencies, such as the “Black Offices”, but the state was at that time more concerned with potential revolutionaries at the time than the Russian population as a whole. Yet after the fall of the Tsar and rise of the Soviet regime, the focus of surveillance switched to include revolutionaries and the population as a whole. This was due to the increased focus on creating a “better, purer society”(Holquist, 417) as well as a desire to protect the regime. It was interesting to see throughout the article how Holquist describes the evolution of surveillance and the variance within time periods, countries, and the European continent as a whole.

In Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism Thompson analyzes the evolution of the concept of time in relation to industry, modernization, and societal values. Thompson argues one of the ways the importance of time was emphasized was through pre-existing Puritan values. These values had already stressed a strong work ethic and a importance placed on time in the context of religion and an approaching judgment day. Thompson argues the insistence imposed by religion on the working individual switched to an insistence based on making money and a sense of time in relation to hours in place of a natural cycle. Relating to the evolution of the modern concept of time in relation to society, Thompson mentioned clocks began appearing in public places during the 14th century but their upkeep and ringing was funded through the donations of local residents. The donations indicate that the modern concept and importance of time was not yet established in these communities and most were functioning with natural time. It was interesting that in the 18th century the possession of a device which could tell time, such as a pocketwatch or grandfather clock, indicated a higher social status or rising social status amongst the lower classes.

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