Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In the Panopticism, Michel Foucault stresses that the notion of the panopticon is that of a persistent surveillance of our actions. More accurately, it is the illusion that we are constantly under surveillance. He state that “To induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who excises it.” At a prison, if there is a guard tower in the outdoor court area that looks over the whole prison but no one is able to look inside and know whether the guard is watching, then it is not necessary to put a guard in the tower all the time because the prisoners will act as if they are being watched. “Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. The inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central power from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment, but he must be sure that he may always be so.” This concept of panopticon applies to the society governance, as “Discipline” is the “physics” or an “anatomy” of power. The disciplinary society is not necessarily one with a panopticon in every street, it is one where the state controls such methods of coercion and operates them throughout society. The best form of governance is its ability to create the illusion surveillance.

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