A Neo-Republican Theory of Just State Surveillance

Patrick Taylor Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper develops a novel, neo-republican account of just state surveillance in the information age. The goal of state surveillance should be to avoid and prevent domination, both public and private. In light of that conception of justice, the paper makes three substantive points. First, it argues that modern state surveillance based upon information technology and predicated upon a close partnership with the tech sector gives the state significant power and represents a serious potential source of domination. Second, it argues that, nonetheless, state surveillance can serve legitimate republican ends and so unilateral and private technological attempts to block it may be wrongful. Third, it argues that, despite the serious normative failings of current institutions, state surveillance can be justly regulated and made accountable through a legal liability regime that incentivizes tech company intermediaries to ally with civil society groups in order to safeguard the privacy rights of potential subjects of state surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-71
Number of pages23
JournalMoral Philosophy and Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2020


  • civil society
  • ethics of information technology
  • neo-republicanism
  • social and political philosophy
  • surveillance


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