Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Panopticons for the People!

After visiting Michel Foucalt's 'Discipline and Punish, Panopticism (1975)' at and 'Surveillance and Society, Foucalt and Panopticism Revised' at, we will see below how Panopticism has come into play in modern everyday life of twenty-first century today.

In today's remaking of people, and society alike, in the image of modernity Panopticism is represented by the figure of the Panopticon, which is commonly known as 'the drive to self-monitoring through the belief that one is under constant scrutiny' under the assurance of the automatic functioning of power.

From the Seventeenth Century strategies of excluding the lepers from infecting the 'normal' society until today, methods of dividing and separating in a very individualising manner are in constant use. According to Foucalt these strategies have been used in the confinement of the mentally sick to asylums, the subjection of medical patients to psychiatric probing and the ever-looming gazes of professionals equipped to penetrate bodies, and for the solitary imprisonment of criminals. All relevant to today's society, over 30 years after he wrote about this panoptic phenomenon.

Nevertheless in each and any of these circumstances it gives rise to the possibility of the penultimate use of power: the power to see but remain unseen, the power to reduce the number of viewers yet increase the number of those being viewed; with the simple usage of 'power of mind over mind'. Thus intensifying the panoptic power and at the same time assuring its economic value. Making it smoothly integrateable into any function, be it education, medical treatment, production and more importantly punishment.

According to Foucalt though its aim is to strengthen social forces, by increasing production, developing the economy, spreading education, raising the level of public morality and to increase and multiply. Yet as Foucalt questions 'how will power, by increasing its forces, be able to increase those of society instead of confiscating them or impeding them?'

Accordingly, the solution to this problem is 'that the productive increase of power can be assured only if, on the one hand, it can be exercised continuously in the very foundations of society, in the subtlest possible way'. Henceforth, the penetration of society with various disciplinary mechanisms, such as visible street patrolling police officers, or the newly revamped community service officers for example.

Nonetheless, panopticism is a mechanism of social disciplinary, whether it be through twenty-four hour CCTV cameras at the corner of your eye every step you take down your high street, or the friendly cops in fluorescent yellow or blue uniforms patrolling the streets of London, panopticism is a strategy to make the monitoring, policing, and eventual controlling of society through the exercise of power in a lighter, more rapid, more effective and subtler coercion for the eventual transformation to a disciplined society.

With the average Londoner being caught on camera on average three hundred times a day, it's no surprise that if society can’t be free to exercise its own levels of self-discipline that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons.

E-Blogger isn't allowing me to post anymore pictures for some unknown reason, but keep an eye out, they will follow soon...!

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