Topics: Panopticon, Michel Foucault, Prison Pages: 5 (1585 words) Published: January 10, 2013
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...
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