Elective Affinities in the Engineering of Social Control: The Evolution of Electronic Monitoring


Electronic monitoring (EM) is now a widespread practical resource and technique of community supervision/control in corrections. It is argued that an “elective affinity” in the conjuncture of specific political, technological, economic, and ideological forces, conditions, and interests acts to facilitate the institutional integration of EM into American correctional control practices. Pursuing the elective affinity argument the paper describes the converging forces, conditions, and interests enabling the institutional integration of first generation EM technology as a practical resource for correctional control. These systems are currently being deployed primarily to verify curfew compliance. An argument is then made for a convergence of social forces and interests likely to promote the institutional integration of second generation EM technology, accomplishing the social control of offenders through geographical tracking and remote monitoring of physiological states. The paper concludes by briefly exploring how EM might be theoretically located within the sociological study of surveillance.