Value of Surveillance: Private Policing, Bourgeois Reform, and Sexual Commerce in Turn-of-the-Century New York

Austin Gallas

Advisor: Paul Smith, PhD, Cultural Studies Program

Committee Members: Amaka Okechukwu, Stephen Robertson

Online Location,
July 15, 2022, 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM


Scholars have long mined the voluminous archive of the Committee of Fourteen (1905–1932) ––a powerful, privately funded law enforcement and anti-prostitution organization backed by influential industrialists and social reformers––to examine various elusive elements of New York City social history, including the emergence of queer subcultures, the extralegal enforcement of Jim Crow by private authorities, and the policing of sex workers, their clients, and "promiscuous" women within and beyond commercial amusement spaces. This dissertation both contributes to and departs from this important body of historical scholarship by providing a Marxian consideration of the Committee of Fourteen’s origins, methods, intellectual contributions, political influence, and published and privately communicated beliefs and/or positions. Exploring the archive with an eclectic mixture of conceptual categories and critical frameworks ready-to-hand, including Marx's work on value theory, Michael Ralph’s “forensics of capital” framework, and Foucauldian theories of biopower and surveillance, this dissertation develops a novel, "ecological" understanding of the Committee of Fourteen as a vital site of capitalist class composition.