E. Stoddart, Theological Perspectives on a Surveillance Society:
Watching and Being Watched. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate
Publishing, 2011. Pp. viii, 198. Hb. Â£50. ISBN 978-0754667971.
Thereâ€™s no getting around it. We live in a surveillance society. As a
report for the UK information commissioner by the Surveillance Studies
Network (2006) put it: â€˜In all the rich countries of the world everyday
life is suffused with surveillance encounters, not merely from dawn to
dusk but 24/7â€™. Stoddartâ€™s Theological Perspectives on a Surveillance
Society is one of the few books to consider this reality theologically,
and to propose a conceptual framework for ethical engagement with
the massive surveillance systems that now underpin modern existence.
Across the breadth of this vast topic, Stoddart develops an ethic of care
that does not resist all surveillance practices in a reactionary, knee-jerk
manner, but allows reflections on the creative purposes of God and the
crucified Christ â€“ who experienced surveillance â€“ to inform an approach
to surveillance â€˜first and foremost for peopleâ€™ (p. 171) when practiced
The term â€˜careâ€™ is used judiciously by Stoddart to speak of â€˜active
engagement in building life-affirming relationsâ€™ (p. 55). His purpose is to
interrogate the surveillance structures and systems that we inhabit for
ways to build right relations that do not discriminate, degrade or defraud.
Drawing upon feminist ethics of care, he develops a critical hermeneutic
that does not merely denounce the presence of CCTV cameras in
our high streets and airports, resist social networking accounts or
necessarily refuse supermarket discounting schemes that collect data
on us. Stoddart is no present-day Luddite wanting to destroy systems
of surveillance that threaten privacy but, rather, a critically constructive
realist seeking to develop an ethic of care robust enough to guide the
â€˜practice of surveillance compassionatelyâ€™ (p. 2).
Central themes include the inadequacy of an ethic of privacy for
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