Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. A Reflection on the Panopticon

Topics: Michel Foucault, Prison, Panopticon Pages: 4 (1298 words) Published: December 1, 2013
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.
A Reflection on the Panopticon

Since Michel Foucault's 1975 book 'Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison was published, it has been met with many criticisms due to the sociologist's views on an array of subjects. Foucault contends that panopticism, more specifically the Panopticon, is the ideal form of discipline within the prison institution because it creates a setting in which the inmates subject themselves to real or perceived guards and surveillance. After careful analysis of Foucault's text, 3 questions, the focal point of the present text, are proposed. First, how should prison guards respond in a circumstance when inmates do not act in accordance with the expected self-policing, docile behaviour that was hypothesized by Foucault? Next, does Foucault take the neglect of self-supervised workers into consideration? Third, can perceived self-control and paranoia be considered to be effective tools when attempting to reintegrate inmates into general society? It is my contention that although Foucault makes interesting points from a theoretical point of view, these hypotheses are not ready for practical application.

According to Foucauldian theory, the mere architectural structure of the Panopticon, 1 dark tower, centering the surrounding prison cells should trigger a mental response in each prisoner causing them to feel as though they are constantly being watched. Continual observation according to Foucault creates a sequential string of good behaviour, when this behaviour is reproduced over a given amount of time, it is assumed to become permanent part of an inmate's psyche, eventually being internalized to the point where inmates can be reintegrated back into society. That being said, the opposite is also a very real possibility. A prisoner can easily assume he is not being watched, leaving him to act almost entirely out of free will. If this same inmate's actions of free will are not met with...
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