In his essay Panopticism, Focault gives support to the basic argument concerning the panopticon, that communication is key to knowledge. Within the panopticon, there is no communication among the prisoners or those who view them, He breaks down our social or economical systems and explains societies mentality on the law system. He answer the “why’s” in the way certain individuals act and think as they do . he also discusses Jeremy Benthams’s Panopticon and other disciplinary models. However, after reading Panopticism, the question baffles everyone is, what is panopticism anyway?
Panopticism is the combination of three elements: monitoring, control, and correction. This form, which is exerted on individuals, is organized through a network of institutions. it is a major feature of modern society. arises in the period from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century. Its origins are mixed. it is the general principle of a new ‘political anatomy’ whose object and end are not the relations of sovereignty but the relations of discipline.
According to Foucault, the primary difference between Bentham’s Panopticon and the “disciplinary mechanism” of panopticism is that the Panopticon is a physical architectural utopia in which discipline is enforced and panopticism enforces discipline invisibly, without a physical, palpable presence. The idea of panopticism was refined in Bentham’s vision of the Panopticon, but true panopticism grew from this imaginary institution. Since man wrote his first law , principles of power and discipline have been evolving from focusing on the body and pain to concentrating on the mind and soul. Human society largely abandoned public displays of torture, punishment and overt surveillance and adopted more subversive forms of surveillance that are more difficult to detect.
Although never built, Bentham’s Panopticon included a tower housing supervisors with a ring of cells housing inmates surrounding it. One unique aspect of the Panopticon is that one can see out of the tower but cannot see into it from the ring , and one can see into the ring but cannot see out from it. The basic purpose of the Panopticon is to enclose and discipline any group that requires supervision. In effect, one can constantly see any and all aspects of those in the ring of cells without ever coming into contact with them and without their knowledge.
According to Foucault, “this invisibility is a guarantee of order.” The invisible watcher and consistent isolation are the key concepts of the Panopticon. By isolating those under surveillance completely, no matter what type of group is being supervised, a number of negative effects can be avoided. Without contact with others, convicts cannot plot escapes, prison riots, or future crimes; patients cannot spread contagious diseases; nor can schoolchildren cheat, copy or waste time. Essentially, by eliminating any and all contact with others, each inmate must focus on the task at hand since any disobedience would be seen from the tower. However, the real advantage of the Panopticon is that the omnipresent tower makes the inmates believe that they are constantly under surveillance even if no one is watching. As Foucault states, “the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in is action.” Bentham held that if the inmates believed that they were under constant surveillance, they would act as if they were , even if surveillance was non-existent. By making the surveyor both invisible and unverifiable, it also rendered him virtually unnecessary. Simply because the inmates believed and acted as if they were being watched, the actual watching was no longer required.
During the Great Transformation, the idea of the invisible, unverifiable watcher leaped from the Panopticon into a panoptic society. A panoptic society is defined as one in which individuals feel as though they could be under surveillance at any time and therefore act as if they were , even in the absence of surveillance. Most individuals in this type of society discipline themselves, since they believe that there is always a chance of being watched and disciplined by an outside source. These sources range from schools and the workplace to courts and prisons. However the move of panopticism from the utopian Panoticon to the real world did not occur overnight.
Eventually, the collective of various institutions have come to have the ability to survey almost every portion of society in one way or another. So, while society lacks the isolation of the Panopticon , it includes the invisible and unverifiable watcher that guides individuals into disciplining themselves.
Today’s society is even more panoptic than ever. The internet, for example, is well known for its utter lack of privacy and ease of acquiring information on anything and anyone. And, while it is difficult to detect if one is being watched while surfing the web, many people realize that someone could be watching them, which could influence what content they browse. Similarly, security cameras watch silently in malls , parking garages, offices, elevators, possibly anywhere as an invisible supervisor. And at the other end of the line from those cameras, is anyone really watching or are they there just to keep people in line? and also In this modern day society, there are many examples of how the population as a whole has and will always be under surveillance.
For example mobile phones and text messaging services, where a central company can view all messages sent and can track down when a conversation has taken place. Credit cards are another example of our all consuming and all controlling society. Wherever we are in the world , we can be tracked down on the usage of this. There is no escaping the trappings of modern day life, where we are unable to live without credit or debit cards or those that clock up points for us to save money. Everyone is privy to having their financial status, home address trailed wherever they are in the world. It is absolutely impossible for us to live in this modern disciplined society where we are not being watched or where our every move is not being detected.
Along with other social theorists, Foucault believed that knowledge is always a form of power , but he took it a step further and told us that knowledge can be gained from power, producing it, not preventing it. Through observation, new knowledge is produced. In his view, knowledge is forever connected to power, and often wrote them in this way power or knowledge. Foucault’s theory states that knowledge is power.
My realization on panopticism. After reading, and reviewing the essay of panopticism, i realized what this term was, and it is something that it is happening constantly in our world that is being seen or spied without us being able to realize it. they wanted us to always be doing what they want, what their laws say, and not what we want or what we would like to do. Everything started in town when the plague was in it, everyone had to go to their house again until the plague was over. They were like in jail, and whoever that was not their house without permission was going to be accused to have the plague too because he was not following their orders. So each time that something happen the syndic had to be seeing at everyone at the same time, and that was not possible because of the size that a town could have. That is why they decided the Panopticon, it was a very big construction where the same person could be looking at anyone at anytime without been seeing. what they wanted from this was power because having that then they could look at what any person that is in there, they could see what the person is doing and they are making think that person that he or she is.
It’s hard for me to be sure what Mr. Foucault was feeling. Maybe he felt as a prisoner of the panopticon because of the constant ridicule he had to face for his sexual preference. never knowing if he was being observed or frowned upon and facing verbal abuse for his choices. I can understand how these situations could make a person compare his own life to a prison, still i find it hard to believe that this was an essay written with the intent of arousing pity. My classmate suggested the possibility that this was a written with a religious intent. i am not yet ready to concede to that idea. For me, it seemed as if the author wanted to convince his readers that the idea of Panopticism is a good idea. Or to defend the idea of Panopticism from someone who may have criticized the idea. The analogy of the leper and the colony that the lepers confined themselves to was an example of how, in the past, society would leave it to the people being ostracized to separate themselves from the rest of the society. the analogy of the small village in a state of quarantine, forced to adhere to certain rules, no matter if they agree or disagree.
I most definitely agree with Foucault and his work, that we do live in a disciplinary society where we are constantly under surveillance at all times. Foucault argues that other than prisons, institutions used same form of power. This type of visibility and inspection is to exercise control in factories, schools and hospitals etc. The Panopticon ‘‘must not be understood as a dream building… it is in fact a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use’’