The “Institutional Gaze” and Disciplining Subjects

Topics: Sociology, Louis Althusser, Discipline Pages: 7 (2347 words) Published: October 24, 2012
Redline Training Program – The “Institutional Gaze” and Disciplining Subjects

Southwestern is a sales and leadership company based in Nashville, Tennessee that provides summer work opportunities for university students across North America. Students sell educational products directly to families in their homes throughout the summer (SW Corporate). Redline is part of the Southwestern Company training and working with mostly students from the West Coast, including Canada, Washington, California and all over (What is Redline?). To work hard, study hard, and be coachable are three fundamental focuses for Reline 2012 training program. In this assignment, I would particularly examine how the company uses the norm of hard working to judge subjects and discipline them through Redline training program in terms of institutional gaze, discipline, visibility, and power relations. “Institutional Gaze”: Surveillance and Judgment

Norms that are established by the institution to train one how to act are ideals and standards that should be applicable to every member. As hard working is the norm of being an ideal salesperson, people who do not work hard could be considered ‘deviant’ subjects. According to Redline training manual, deviant is identified if one does not show products to 30 families every workday, work at least 75 hours a week (six-day in a row), memorize all sales presentation, fill in weekly reports, and, most importantly, follow the schedule (wake up at 6am, work from 8am to 9:30pm, get sleep before 11:00pm, etc.) (18, 20). For example, if the individual only works 60 hours in a week, he or she would be identified as a “deviant” or “imperfect” one. Subjects are observed by the institutional gaze in both visible and invisible ways. The subject phones the manager every single night when he or she gets home, so the manager knows not only how the subject is doing during the daytime. The supervision from the manager is visible and direct. Besides the manager, the deviants know that there are other supervisors that the manager talks to, but they have no idea who they could be. This panopticism makes power visible and unverifiable as the subjects do not see who else supervises them yet know that there is constant supervision over them. As a result, deviants would take responsibility for their own supervision (Pirkko & Pringle 79) and internalize the gaze. They begin to supervise themselves and identify their abnormal or imperfect behaviours, which is also an invisible way of gaze. When the individual runs between the houses and talks to families during the work day, or analyze personal data at night, she or he is observing her or himself. To determine deviant’s abnormality, evidence such as business activity record and remittance record would be weekly collected. “Discipline”: Reforming “abnormal”, “deviant”, or “imperfect” subjects In order to enforce norms, experts produce a series of disciplinary methods to reform subjects. According to Foucault, there are three instruments from which the success of disciplinary power derives: hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and their combination in a procedure that is specific to it – the examination (188). In hierarchical observation, all power would be exercised solely through exact observation, and each gaze would form a part of the overall functioning of power (189). Normalizing judgment indicates membership of a homogeneous social body and, at the same time, plays a part in classification and hierarchization (196). Combining hierarchical observation and normalizing judgment, the examination holds subjects in a mechanism of objectification, engages them in a whole mass of documents that capture and fix them, and accumulatively characterize each of them and make everyone a “case” (197, 201, 204). In this documentation, a “permanent account of individuals’ behaviour is registered in forms of “conduct, attitudes, possibilities, suspicious” (Tagg 74)....

References: 7. Foucault , Michel. “The Meants of Correct Training” and “The Panopticism”in Paul Rabinowed. The Foucault Reader, New York: Pantheon, 1984. 188-213 Print.
12. Tagg, John. “A Means of Surveillance”, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.70-102 Print
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