Panopticism: Michel Foucault's Ingenious Theory

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| Panopticism; Michel Foucault’s Ingenious Theory PHL 101 Issues in Philosophy |

A French philosopher, Michel Foucault developed the theory Panopticism and is explained in his book, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Foucault was able to erect this theory based off of Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a panopticon. A panopticon is a circular structured building with a watchtower on top, emitting light from all directions. It lies in the middle of a wider circular area, enabling the watch tower to see every aspect of the particular perimeter. This model is used most commonly in jails, although could also be used in schools, or other institutions of the like. A jail is the model of focus in the book and theory, particularly because it is a place of discipline. Foucault further highlights the function of discipline in prison, and disciplinary mechanisms in society in order to make a correlation of the role of discipline as a tool of power. In his book, Foucault shows two forms of punishment. The first, Monarchical and the second, Disciplinary. Monarchical Punishment is seen as a public display of execution, such as beheading. This was done under orders of the King or Queen, and was a spectacle as it was a town’s event. Public torturing was another form of Monarchical Punishment. These forms of punishment repressed the crowds by brutal public displays of death and torture. Disciplinary
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His theory of Panopticism was seen in his era, and has evolved with modern technology and surveillance to become even more predominant in our society today. He characterizes disciplinary power as a perfect technology, abstractly functioning, without constraints serving the purpose of watching and punishing in such an ideal way that an individual cannot escape it. He states in Surveilher et Punir (Discipline and

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