The Powers of Panopticism
Michel Foucault seeks throughout his work, Panopticism, to analyze how contemporary society is differently structured from the society that preceded us. He displays, through Jeremy Bentham’s architectural realization of the Panopticon, a prison for society and those who inhabit it. Also, there is the matter of constant surveillance, discipline and power in society. The Panopticon is not only a building where people are being governed, but also a laboratory-- “The Panopticon is a privileged place for experiments on men” (Foucault 219). A “privileged place” that gives a positive connotation to a residence that is otherwise considered a prison. The power of the Panopticon is derived not from the fact that it is implemented as an architectural and/or optical (surveillance) system, but it is a vehicle of political theology that has limits on specific or intended purposes. Foucault believes that the Panopticon is the design of how humanity uses power to regulate and govern itself. Furthermore, Foucault discusses multiple methods in tackling the issue of what power can mean for both society and the individual themes that are apparent in Cornelius Eady’s Brutal Imagination. The architectural model for the Panopticon was created by Jeremy Bentham, who proposed a building whose main purpose would be to allow an observer to view prisoners without having the prisoners being able to tell if they are being watched. At the center of the building is a tower, “pierced with wide windows that open in the inner side of the ring,” so that a person can “observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery” (Foucault 200). There is a semi-transparency that installs sentiments of fear within the prisoners since the prisoner “is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication”. Regardless of there being a presence, the imprisoned individual is...
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