Foucault and the Panopticon

Topics: Prison, Sociology, Michel Foucault Pages: 3 (1112 words) Published: May 11, 2011
The storyline of the book, Discipline and Punish discusses the history of the penal system that exists today. He also takes the opportunity to focus on how it has changed from decades before and what factors have contributed to such a drastic change. Foucault also uses his ideas of power and discourse to debate how they have both influenced the rise of the form of modern day punishment that we experience today. The author also relates the penal system and the process of it to reflect the sense of social control that is used today. In essence, he relates the modern system of punishment to the ways in which we control the society today. He also reveals in a different light the how the foundation of the penal system is also reinforced into society unintentionally to control.

He begins by acknowledging the former means of punishment as corporeal and public execution that were the main forms used. In such nature, it was meant to be humiliating to the guilty; therefore an audience of any type was essential and mandatory. However, in the eighteenth century, there was a demand for changes in punishment. Advocates cared less about the prisoners and more about power and authority. They came up with the idea of more preventative methods where punishment would be regarded as a discouragement to committing crimes.

The book goes on to further discuss the foundation of what is known as the penal system today. Foucault defines this as disciplinary power is now portrayed to Bentham's Panopticon. The Panopticon is seen as a building or tower that constantly supervises the behavior of individuals. However, these individuals never actually know if there are being watched or not but they assume that they are constantly being overseen. The advantage of this is that individuals can be supervised and controlled efficiently. He goes on to relate it to the world that we live in today by concluding that they are several institutions that act like panopticons.

This historical...
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