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“Panopticism” From Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (1975)

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Presentation on theme: "“Panopticism” From Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (1975)"— Presentation transcript:

1 “Panopticism” From Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (1975)

2 Michel Foucault One of the most prominent philosophers of the 20 th Century At the Collège de France, he was Chair of "The History of Systems of Thought." Interested in: Epistemology (study of origins/nature of knowledge) “How did we come to know what we think we know?” Relationships between knowledge and power How institutions claim and exert power How we internalize mechanisms that discipline/punish Wrote about history of sexuality He struggled with his father about his homosexuality Also sought help from depression through psychology, which fascinated him. He became licensed in psychology himself. Had previously attended a Jesuit college.

3 BIOGRAPHIES Why is it important to have a little background about a philosopher’s life?

4 Discussion Questions Describe the orders for responding to plague in the late 17 th Century (¶ 1-4). 1) Quarantine/division, each street under surveillance by syndic 2) Everyone locked indoors 3) Food hoisted up to them 4) Every day must do an accounting 5) Every observation goes up ladder 6) Day 5 or 6, house purified This order becomes positioned as opposition to the horrors of contagion, rebellion, disorder. Why is he telling us about this? (¶ 5). “All this constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism” Rulers had to dream/imagine what the plague was in order to envision how perfect discipline would function.

5 Comparison to Lepers How does Foucault contrast the treatment of lepers to plague protocol? (¶ 6) “Pure community” (binary) vs. disciplined community (intricate, in-depth surveillance and control) “If it is true that the leper gave rise to rituals of exclusion, which to a certain extent provided the model for and general form of the great Confinement, then the plague gave rise to disciplinary projects. Rather than the massive, binary division between one set of people and another, it called for multiple separations, individualizing distributions, an organization in depth of surveillance and control, an intensification and a ramification of power.” Sometimes elaborate systems were also built around binary groups (mad/sane, dangerous/harmless, normal/abnormal—controlling who he is, where he is, how he is to be characterized/recognized, how he is to be under surveillance, etc.). (¶ 7)

6 What was Bentham’s Panopticon? The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell if they are being observed or not, thus conveying a "sentiment of an invisible omniscience." In his own words, Bentham described the Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example."

7 Bentham’s Panopticon Subjects are objects who do not participate (seen but can’t see)

8 What does Foucault say about the Panopticon? How does it compare to a dungeon? Like a dungeon, it confines, but unlike a dungeon, it is light and there is high visibility (¶ 8) In what situation does the person under surveillance find himself/herself? (¶ 9-10) “He is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.... And this invisibility is a guarantee of order.” “Hence the major effect of the panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.”

9 How the Panopticon Automates Power How does the Panopticon become a “machine?” (¶ 11) “It is an important mechanism, for it automatizes and disindividualizes power. Power has its principle not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; in an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up.... Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine... “ This is how power becomes “automated.” NOTE: Bentham was surprised that people no longer had to be restrained to be subdued—they just had to told they were being watched.

10 Our Panopticon How is our world a panopticon? (¶ 12) School/students, work/workers. Berger (we will be reading)

11 What do you think Foucault’s attitude is toward panopticism? Does he think such discipline is a good thing for society or not? How do you know? This [automated discipline] is what was operated regularly by disciplinary power from the beginning of the nineteenth century in the psychiatric asylum, the penitentiary, the reformatory, the approved school and, to some extent, the hospital. Genearlly speaking, all the authorities exercising individual control function according to a double mode; that of binary division and branding (mad/sane; dangerous/harmless; normal/abnoral; and that of coercive assignment of differential distribution (who he is; where he must be; how he is to be characterized; how he is to be recognized; how a constant surveillance is to be exercised over him in an individual way, etc.). (¶ 12)

12 In 2001 Frontline made a landmark documentary that studied how teens are being targeted and studied by corporations—and how teens respond to being watched. How does “panopticism” relate to “Merchants of Cool?”

13 Merchants of Cool How does “Panopticism” relate to Merchants of Cool?

14 Bentham’s Panopticon Subjects are objects who do not participate (seen but can’t see) How is this model like the Merchants of Cool giant feedback loop? How is it different?.

15 Questions?


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