Audit—the ongoing evaluation of performance—began as a fairly narrow range of technical procedures in financial accounting. However, it has now expanded its range to “account” for a wide range of behaviours, thoughts and feelings, in the workplace and elsewhere. This article suggests that audit cultures are a response to the “abyss of the differential”. This is the abyss faced when too much generative difference threatens established interests, and thus everything these interests control. Such interests often face a double bind, because they also rely on exploiting generative difference and are thus fully immersed in it. Audit is seen as a useful response to this double bind—to the abyss of the differential. Audit technics/cultures use a flexible series of ‘controls of controls’ (Power in Shore and Wright 2000: 73) that differentially declare what is (un)acceptable. They therefore both energise and bound what counts as performance, variably and across multiple contexts. Audit also links local and global, macro and micro, pragmatically, in a combination of instrumental and ‘operational reason’ (Massumi 2002: 110). It thus enables the creation and exchange of new forms of value and relations of production. It also enables the insertion of the micro-events of work or living into a global mnemotechnics—the external memory work done in the networks of global media (Stiegler 2003a). In all these contexts, audit’s technics include a powerful use of the ‘pseudo a priori’ (Stiegler 2003a). This allows audit to variably repurpose the significance of events—in terms of what is (un)acceptable—before, during and after their occurrence. Controlling events as it does, audit can thus be seen as an expression of fantasies of neofeudalism. These are fantasies of a social order arranged in terms of a new control by the few over the individual existential territories of the many, with a global territorial reach. These fantasies do not actually inaugurate a functioning neofeudal society, but they nevertheless have very real and often disastrous effects. Finally, the article suggests that audit and related technics/cultures are only partial and transitional technics/cultures. It suggests that a more effective if problematic society of direct control is emerging, yet this in part emerges with the assistance of audit technics/cultures.
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