Even the modern liberal state, like those of North America and Western Europe, wants us to be ourselves. It wants subversive and potentially dangerous people to reveal themselves through their habits and social connections, not to slink away and hide in the dark. Repressing dissent and subversion does not eliminate them: the Stasi lost its efforts to control the East German people despite the enormous scale of its operations and the long-lasting damage it inflicted on both the observers and the observed. In the twenty-first-century liberal state, domination does not demand social or cultural conformity. The state, like every private firm that employs a sophisticated method of marketing, wants us to express ourselves—to choose—because mere expression of difference is usually both harmless and remarkably useful to the powerful.
Excerpted from “The , by Siva Vaidhyanathan of everything (and why we should worry)”