Living Under the Bell Jar

Surveillance and Resistance in Yevgeny Zamyatin's We

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 University of Glasgow
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Observation plays an increasingly significant role in twentieth-century society as a means of regulation. In this regulatory function, observation manifests itself in the ubiquitous CCTV, traffic cameras and other surveillance techniques used to monitor and record the activities of ordinary citizens. One of the more alarming recent manifestations of the potential for all-pervasive surveillance is the announcement of the development of an urban surveillance system by the United States military, which 'would use computers and thousands of cameras to track, record and analyze the movement of every vehicle in a foreign city,' and which could potentially be used by governments on their own citizens. The dramatic increase of surveillance in the twentieth-century has also been matched by an increase of voyeuristic entertainment, exemplified by the Orwellian titled television game show Big Brother. The entertainment value of voyeuristic surveillance has arguably rendered individuals more …accepting of regulatory surveillance in their personal lives. This trend towards increasing surveillance coupled with a citizenry inured to a constant invasion of its privacy has formed the basis for a number of twentieth-century dystopian novels and films, such as George Orwell's 1984 (1949), George Lucas's THX-1138 (1971), Stephen King's The Running Man (1982), Peter Weir's The Truman Show (1998), Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium (2002) and the Warchowski brothers' Matrix trilogy (1999-2003). The widely acknowledged forerunner of these works, however, was a novel, We, written in 1921 by the Russian author, Yevgeny Zamyatin.

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