The Panopticon

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The Panopticon: And the Way it Relates to Modern Society

Dear, Mr. Foucault

After reading your ideas on panopticism, I found myself both agreeing with your ideas and on the other hand having a few questions of my own. Does power have to be invisible, in order for it to be truly effective? Can a panopticon have the same powerful effect over school kid, mental patients, and hospital occupants as it does with prisoners? Nevertheless, these questions will be looked at more closely later on more on Mr. Foucault.

You state that the plague is the reason why disciplined communities created. Your essay starts out discussing the precautions used during the time of the black plague. You explain that these steps were strictly enforced, with various disciplinary measures, such as rationing out food, separating each family from one another, and daily inspections. All modern mechanisms for controlling abnormal individuals derive from these disciplinary mechanisms created in the fear of the plague. The one disciplinary mechanism that you discuss extensively is Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. The Panopticon tower is described to have a “design ensured that no prisoner could ever see the 'inspector' who conducted surveillance from the central location within the radial configuration. The prisoner could never know when [they were] under surveillance” (Cartone June 2001). You claim that this is the “ideal form of power”, because “power should be visible and unverifiable” (Foucault 215). Why does power have to be unverifiable? Are you suggesting that a king of England, such as Henry VIII, did not have absolute power over his kingdom? A king is anything but absent from his subject’s vision. I suppose you could argue that a monarchy is not type of disciplinary mechanism, but it does serve to keep people inline as a panopticon would.

Moving on, I do agree with you when you express how the panopticon is exceptionally efficient in the way it increases the number of people who...
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