Towards a Democratic Singularity? Algorithmic Governmentality, the Eradication of Politics, and the Possibility of Resistance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This contribution steps back from considering the operation of AI within the legal process directly and considers a more foundational issue surrounding democracy, and the basic legitimacy for any legal system that can be gained from a connection with ‘the will of the people’. The first section considers briefly how the promise of online consultation has not fully delivered on its democratic potential. The paper then considers new developments in surveillance, where almost all aspects of everyday life are transformed into quantified data, and subject to monitoring and predictive analysis. It is argued that this amounts to a new, pervasive and totalising form of surveillance and control which can be understood best as a form of ‘algorithmic governmentality’. Building upon arguments about consultation, it is contended that developments in technology may in future have the effect of making existing ideas about consultation and democracy redundant as actual preferences can be measured directly without the need for an intermediary political process to represent preferences. This direct presentation of preferences, created by inference from the radical datafication process, offers a false emancipation by appearing to be, by its very nature, all-inclusive and accurate. This is a novel form of governance, seemingly beyond traditional politics and it is one that has the potential to undermine, and then transcend, many of fundamental attributes of citizenship which presently appear as part of the bargain within the government – governed relationship. This contribution seeks to explore the parameters of this development of ‘algorithmic democracy’, and the potential of law and other strategies to operate as resistance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIs Law Computable?
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Perspectives on Law & Artificial Intelligence.
EditorsSimon Deakin, Christopher Markou
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherHart Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781509937073
ISBN (Print)9781509937080
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2020


  • algorithmic governmentality, surveillance, bio surveillance, consultation, democracy, digital lifeworld, data doubles, Covid 19, nudge, hyper nudge, big data, personalisation, smart city human rights approaches, Foucault, Deleuze, governmentality,


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