Panopticism Synopsis

Topics: Michel Foucault, Panopticon, Prison Pages: 5 (1665 words) Published: January 17, 2013
“Panopticism” Synopsis (beginning to 301)
The Plague
Foucault starts off his essay with the plague and the measures taken by a town to prevent it from affecting more people. People have been ordered to stay inside. Every street has been under surveillance and authority to make sure no one leaves their home or else the penalty will be death. There are no specific names or history of the people except for the roles that they play and what they do. For example, the town was divided into distinct sections where the syndic himself locks the doors of everyone. The key is handed over to the intendant until the quarantine has passed. Only the syndics, intendant, and guards are allowed to walk along the streets. “The plague is met by order; its function is to sort out every possible confusion: that of the disease, which is transmitted when bodies are mixed together; that of the evil, which is increased when fear and death overcome prohibitions.” (Page 284) According to this specific quote, the plague is being compared to order, control and discipline. Leprosy

He goes on about the plague and then transitions into the political idea of leprosy and lepers. “One the one hand, the lepers are treated like plague victims; the tactics of individualizing disciplines are imposed on the excluded; and, on the other hand, the universality of disciplinary controls makes it possible to brand the “leper” and to bring into play against him the dualistic mechanisms of exclusion. (Page 285) He ties together lepers and the plague together in a way that involves exclusion but on the other hand control. Lepers are considered, as outcasts where there is a certain aspect about them that people don’t want to be around them. Both are similar in a way that they deal with excluding people from the community and society. This portrays a sense of control and discipline that is of greater power over the people. The Panopticon

The Panopticon was a significant part of the essay in which Foucault explains the general layout out of the building in which it keeps prisoners inside under surveillance at all times. The architectural layout of the building is structured in a way that there is a central tower where the guard or guards are stationed at and surrounding them are prisoners in their individual cells. This depicts the idea of a “ vertical communication”. Foucault explains his information in the form of describing the hierarchical roles of the prison; the prisoners can only communicate with the guards who are of higher status but cannot communicate with others on the same level as him. “He is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.” (Page 287) The way the Panopticon was designed to work was to make the prisoners believe there to be a guard, or multiple guards or none at all, stationed at the central tower. Because of this idea, it produces the mindset into the prisoners’ head that there is a guard watching them at all times, thus not permitting them to do anything that would get them caught. Thus, the statement "He is seen but does not see...” The building is not only just to keep prisoners in but can also be used for other purposes such as a school, workplace, or a hospital. Hence, the exercise of power does not matter to who or to whom it’s being exercised upon. Besides mentioning power, he relates the entrapment of the humans like that of Le Vaux’s menagerie at Versailles. This acts as a form of discipline that chooses power over mind.

Disciplinary - Mechanisms
 Foucault discusses the function of discipline and how to “increase the possible utility of individuals”. He states that soldiers in the past were uncontrollable but with discipline, it allows them to follow orders and to stay out of trouble. Discipline ultimately influences the behavior of a person and how they function in society. “Now, at the beginning of the Revolution, the end laid down for primary education was to be, among other...
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