Foucault panopticism

It is no surprise that the cellular, observational prison is the modern penal instrument, or that prisons resemble factories, schools and hospitals.

Foucault panopticism

Background[ edit ] Jeremy Bentham proposed the panopticon as a circular building with an observation tower in the centre of an open space surrounded by an outer wall. This wall would contain cells for occupants.

This design would increase security by facilitating more effective surveillance.

Foucault panopticism

Residing within cells flooded with light, occupants would be readily distinguishable and visible to an official invisibly positioned in the central tower. Conversely, occupants would be invisible to each other, with concrete walls dividing their cells.

Due to Foucault panopticism bright lighting emitted from the watch tower, occupants would not be able to tell if and when they are being watched, making discipline a passive rather than an active action. Strangely, the cell-mates act in matters as if they are being watched, though they cannot be certain eyes are actually on them.

Foucault saw panopticism as present in many institutions, not just the prison system. Institutions such as asylums, schools, military and secret services also adopt a panoptic way of disciplining, with constant surveillance acting to maintain control of those within them. Below is an essay on "Panopticism" from Anti Essays, your source for research papers, essays, and term panopticism essay paper examples Comparative Analysis Essay of the relationship between “Panopticism” panopticism essay by Michel Foucault and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Foucault’s Panopticism and Its Application Within Modern Education Systems Words | 7 Pages. Panopticism, a social theory based on Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon and developed by Michel Foucault describes a disciplinary mechanism used in various aspects of society.

There is a type of invisible discipline that reigns through the prison, for each prisoner self-regulates, in fear that someone is watching their every move. Although usually associated with prisonsthe panoptic style of architecture might be used in other institutions with surveillance needs, such as schools, factories, Foucault panopticism hospitals.

The ever-visible inmate, Foucault suggests, is always "the object of information, never a subject in communication".

As hinted at by the architecture, this panoptic design can be used for any "population" that needs to be kept under observation or control, such as: Furthermore, it guarantees the function of power, even when there is no one actually asserting it.

It is in this respect that the Panopticon functions automatically. Foucault goes on to explain that this design is also applicable for a laboratory. Its mechanisms of individualization and observation give it the capacity to run many experiments simultaneously. In light of this fact Foucault compares jails, schools, and factories in their structural similarities.

Such ordering is apparent in many parts of the modernized and now, increasingly digitalized, world of information. However, while on one hand, new technologies, such as CCTV or other surveillance cameras, have shown the continued utility of panoptic mechanisms in liberal democracies, it could also be argued that electronic surveillance technologies are unnecessary in the original "organic" or "geometric" disciplinary mechanisms as illustrated by Foucault.

Foucault on self surveillance

Foucault argues, for instance, that Jeremy Bentham 's Panopticon provides us with a model in which a self-disciplined society has been able to develop. These apparatuses of behavior control are essential if we are to govern ourselves, without the constant surveillance and intervention by an "agency" in every aspect of our lives.

The Canadian historian Robert Gellately has observed, for instance, that because of the widespread willingness of Germans to inform on each other to the Gestapo that Germany between was a prime example of Panopticism.

Kevin Haggerty and Richard Ericson, for instance, have hinted that technological surveillance "solutions" have a particularly "strong cultural allure" in the West.

In some cases, however, particularly in the case of mined credit card information, dataveillance has been documented to have led to a greater incidence of errors than past surveillance techniques. Since the beginning of the Information Agethere exists a debate over whether these mechanisms are being refined or accelerated, or on the other hand, becoming increasingly redundant, due to new and rapid technological advancements.

Panopticism and capitalism[ edit ] Foucault also relates panopticism to capitalism: In fact, the two processes - the accumulation of men and the accumulation of capital - cannot be separated; it would not be possible to solve the problem of the accumulation of men without the growth of an apparatus of production capable of both sustaining them and using them; conversely, the techniques that made the cumulative multiplicity of men useful accelerated the accumulation of capital Information Panopticons do not rely on physical arrangements, such as building structures and direct human supervision.

Everything, from the time a task is started to the time it is completed, is recorded. All this is monitored by supervision from a computer.


The Information Panopticon can be defined as a form of centralized power that uses information and communication technology as observational tools and control mechanisms. Users of DIALOG found that the system facilitated not only innovation and collaboration, but also relaxation, as many employees began to use the system to joke with one another and discuss non-work related topics.

It is argued by Foucault that industrial management has paved the way for a very disciplinary society. The point of this is to get as much productivity from the workers as possible. Contrasting with Bentham's model prison, workers within the Information Panopticon know they are being monitored at all times.

Even if a supervisor is not physically there, the computer records their every move and all this data is at the supervisor's finger tips at all times. The system's objectivity can have a psychological impact on the workers.Cultural Landscapes Bibliography.

Return to Bibliography. Michel Foucault. “Panopticism (Excerpt)” in Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory. Neil Leach, ed. Foucault’s main concern in this rather short piece is the organization of power in terms of space. Michel Foucault.

Discipline & Punish (), Panopticism III. DISCIPLINE 3. Panopticism From Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (NY: Vintage Books ) pp. translated from the. Foucault central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but.

In Michel Foucault’s essay, Panopticism, the effects of making a person visible and isolated are explained. Before Foucault addresses his theory, Panopticism, he first explains Jeremy Bentham’s architectural structure, the Panopticon.

Panopticism is the general principle of a new "political anatomy" whose object and end are not the relations of sovereignty but the relations of discipline.

| Panopticism; Michel Foucault’s Ingenious Theory PHL 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 .

Foucault: Panopticism