Professor H. Alvarez
17 March 2013
“Both John Berger in “Ways of Seeing” and Michel Foucault in “Panopticism” discuss what Foucault calls “power relations.” Berger claims that “the entire art of the past has now become a political issue,” and he makes a case for the evolution of “ new language of images” which could “confer a new kind of power” if people were to understand history in art. Foucault argues that the Panopticon signals an “inspired” change in power relations. “It is,” he says, An important mechanism, for it automatizes and disindividualizes power. Power has its principle not so much in a person as n a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up. (288)” Both Berger and Foucault create arguments about power, its methods and goals. Re-read their essays and mark passages you might use to explain how each author thinks about power –where it comes from, who has it, how it works, where you look for it, how you know it when you see it, where it goes, what it looks like, what it does, etc. Re-read the essays as a pair with the idea that you are looking at how to explain theories of power. Each essay may be thought of as representing a particular theory of power that you will compare and contrast. Write an response in which you present and explain “Ways of Seeing” and “Panopticism” as examples of Berger’s and Foucault’s theories of power. Both Foucault and Berger are arguing against our usual understanding of power and knowledge and history. In this sense, what they are doing or, to use Foucault’s term, their “projects” are similar. Be sure, however, to look for differences as well as similarities.
According to Michel Foucault’s “Panopticism”, power has no physical presence. However, once it is inserted into the minds of people, it has a constant impact on the behavior of a society. For example,...