It is an analysis of the social and theoretical mechanisms behind the changes that occurred in Western penal systems during the modern age based on historical documents from France. Foucault argues that prison did not become the principal form of punishment just because of the humanitarian concerns of reformists. He traces the cultural shifts that led to the predominance of prison via the body and power. Prison used by the "disciplines" — new technological powers that can also be found, according to Foucault, in places such as schools, hospitals, and military barracks. In a later work, Security, Territory, Population , Foucault admitted that he was somewhat overzealous in his argument that disciplinary power conditions society; he amended and developed his earlier ideas.

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SparkNotes is here for you with everything you need to ace or teach! Find out more. Foucault begins with a description of measures to be taken against the plague in the seventeenth century: partitioning of space and closing off houses, constant inspection and registration.

Processes of quarantine and purification operate. The plague is met by order. Lepers were also separated from society, but the aim behind this was to create a pure community. The plague measures aim at a disciplined community. The plague stands as an image against which the idea of discipline was created. The existence of a whole set of techniques and institutions for measuring and supervising abnormal beings brings into play the disciplinary mechanisms created by the fear of the plague.

All modern mechanisms for controlling abnormal individuals derive from these. Foucault then discusses Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, a building with a tower at the center from which it is possible to see each cell in which a prisoner or schoolboy is incarcerated.

Visibility is a trap. Each individual is seen but cannot communicate with the warders or other prisoners. The crowd is abolished. The panopticon induces a sense of permanent visibility that ensures the functioning of power. Bentham decreed that power should be visible yet unverifiable. The prisoner can always see the tower but never knows from where he is being observed.

The possibility that the panopticon is based on the royal menagerie at Versailles is raised. The Panopticon allows on to do the work of a naturalist: drawing up tables and taxonomies. It is also a laboratory of power, in which experiments are carried out on prisoners and staff. The plague-stricken town and the panopticon represent transformations of the disciplinary programme. The first case is an exceptional situation, where power is mobilized against an extraordinary evil. The second is a generalized model of human functioning, a way of defining power relations in everyday life.

The Panopticon is not a dream building, but a diagram of power reduced to its ideal form. It perfects the operations of power by increasing the number of people who can be controlled, and decreasing the number needed to operate it. It gives power over people's minds through architecture.

As it can be inspected from outside, there is no danger of tyranny. The panopticon was destined to spread throughout society. It makes power more economic and effective. It does this to develop the economy, spread education and improve public morality, not to save society. The panopticon represents the subordination of bodies that increases the utility of power while dispensing with the need for a prince.

Bentham develops the idea that disciplines could be dispersed throughout society. He provides a formula for the functioning of a society that is penetrated by disciplinary mechanisms. There are two images of discipline: one the discipline blockade—an exceptional enclosed space on the edge of society; and two the discipline-mechanism—a functional mechanism to make power operate more efficiently.

The move from one to the other represents the formation in the seventeenth and eighteenth century of a disciplinary society.

Other increasingly profound processes operated: one the functional inversion of disciplines; two the swarming of disciplinary mechanisms; mechanisms begin to circulate openly in society, and are broken down into flexible methods of control; three the state control of discipline, as in the formation of a central police power.

We can talk of the formation of a disciplinary society in the movement from enclosed disciplines to an infinitely extendible "panopticism". The formation of a disciplinary society is connected to several historical processes: one disciplines are techniques of assuring the ordering of human masses that elaborate tactics of power that operate economically and invisibly.

These tactics aim to increase the docility and utility of all elements of the system. This corresponds to a population increase, and a rise in the numbers to be supervised. The development of a capitalist economy led to a situation where these techniques could be operated in diverse regimes.

Two the panoptic modality of power is not independent. The disciplines and panopticism are the reverse of a process by which rights are guaranteed.

The Enlightenment, which invented the liberties, also invented the disciplines. Three what is new in the eighteenth century is the combination of disciplinary techniques. This occurred within a development of other technologies. The eighteenth century invented the examination, just as the middle-ages invented the judicial inquisition; much of modern penal techniques reveal the penetration of the examination into the inquisition.

Artboard Created with Sketch. Error Created with Sketch. Important Quotations Explained. Summary Panopticism. Page 1 Page 2. Summary Foucault begins with a description of measures to be taken against the plague in the seventeenth century: partitioning of space and closing off houses, constant inspection and registration.

Popular pages: Discipline and Punish. Take a Study Break.


What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance?

SparkNotes is here for you with everything you need to ace or teach! Find out more. The extreme of ancien regime penality was the dismemberment of the convict's body: the ideal position of modern penality is the indefinite examination. It is no surprise that the cellular, observational prison is the modern penal instrument, or that prisons resemble factories, schools and hospitals. In many ways, this is the heart of the book. For Foucault, the panopticon represents the way in which discipline and punishment work in modern society.


Discipline & Punish - Panopticism

T he philosopher Jeremy Bentham famously requested in his will that his body be dissected and put on public display. This came to pass, and his skeleton now sits in a glass case at University College London, adorned with a wax head, waistcoat and jacket and sat on a wooden stool, staring out at students from its glass case. Bentham was regarded as the founder of utilitarianism and a leading advocate of the separation of church and state, freedom of expression and individual legal rights. As I write this, a young couple are walking across the corridor, his hand pressed against the small of her back. As a work of architecture, the panopticon allows a watchman to observe occupants without the occupants knowing whether or not they are being watched. As a metaphor, the panopticon was commandeered in the latter half of the 20th century as a way to trace the surveillance tendencies of disciplinarian societies.

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