Foucault: Panopticism from Discipline and Punishment

the following are quotes from Panopticism

The plague as a form, at once real and imaginary, of disorder had as its medical and political correlative discipline.

If it is true that the leper gave rise to rituals of exclusion, which to a certain extent provided the model for the general form of the great Confinement, then the plague gave rise to the disciplinary projects.

The first is that of a pure community, the second that of a disciplined society.

The constant division between the normal and the abnormal, to which every individual is subjected, brings us back to our own time, by applying the binary branding and exile of the leper to quite different objects; the existence of the whole set of techniques and institutions for measuring, supervising and correcting the abnormal brings into play the disciplinary mechanisms to which the fear of the plague gave rise.

The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/bing seen dyad; in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.

….it constructs for a time what is both a counter-city and the perfect society; it imposes and ideal functioning, but one that is reduced, in the final analysis, like the evil that it combats, to a simple dualism of life and death: that which moved brings death, & one kills that which moves.

…the Panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form….

The Panopticon, on the other hand, has a role of amplification; although it arranges power, although it is intended to make it more economic and more effective, it does so not for power itself, nor for the immediate salvation of a threatened society: its aim is to strengthen the social forces – to increase production, to develop the economy, spread education, raise the level of public morality; to increase the multiply.
How is power to be strengthened in such a way that, far from impeding progress, far from weighing upon it with its rules and regulations, it actually facilitates such progress?

…Bentham dreamt of a transforming into a network of mechanisms that would be everywhere and always alert, running through society without interruption in space or in time.

The movement from one project to the other, from a schema of exceptional discipline to one of a generalized surveillance, rests on a historical transformation: the gradual extension of the mechanisms of a discipline throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, their spread throughout the whole social body, the formation of what might be called in general the disciplinary society.

The disciplines function increasingly as techniques for making useful individuals.

‘Discipline’ may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power, modality for its exercise, comprising a whole set of instruments, techniques, procedures, levels of application, targets; it is a ‘physics’ or an ‘anatomy’ of power, a technology.

…the family the privileged locus of emergence for the disciplinary question of the normal and the abnormal….
Our society is one not of spectacle, but of surveillance; under the surface of images, one invests bodies in depth; behind the great abstraction of exchange, there continues the meticulous, concrete training of useful forces; the circuits of communication are the supports of an accumulation and a centralization of knowledge….

Hence the fact that the disciplines use procedures of partitioning and verticality, the they introduce, between the different elements at the same level, as solid separations as possible, that they define compact hierarchical networks, in short, that they oppose to the intrinsic, adverse force of multiplicity the techniques of the continuous, individualizing pyramid.

If the economic take-off of the West began with the techniques that made possible the accumulation of capital, it might perhaps be said that the methods for administering the accumulation of men made possible a political take-off in relation to the traditional, ritual, costly, violent forms of power, which soon fell into disuse and were superseded by a subtle , calculated technology of subjection. In fact, the two processes – the accumulation of men and the accumulation of capital – cannot of separated…

At a less general level, the technological mutations of the apparatus of production, the division of labour and the elaboration of the disciplinary techniques sustained an ensemble of the very close relations. Each makes the other possible and necessary; each provided a model of the other.

Let us say that discipline is the unitary technique by which the body is reduced as a ‘political’ force at the least cost and maximized as a useful force.

Historically, the process by which the bourgeoisie became in the course of the eighteenth century the politically dominant class was masked by the establishment of an explicit, coded and formally egalitarian juridical framework, made possible by the organization of a parliamentary, representative regime. But the development and generalization of disciplinary mechanisms constituted the other, dark side of these processes.

The ‘Enlightenment’, which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.

Regular and institutional as it may be, the discipline, in its mechanism, is a ‘counter-law’. ….its universally widespread panopticism enables it to operate, on the underside of the law, a machinery that is both immense and minute….

The investigation was the sovereign power arrogating to itself the right to establish the truth by a number of regulated techniques. Now, although the investigation has since then been an integral part of western justice (even up to our own day), one must not forget either its political origin, its link with the birth of the states and of monarchical sovereignty, or its later extension and its role in the formation of knowledge. In fact, the investigation has been the no doubt crude, but fundamental element in the constitution of the empirical sciences….

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2 comments
  1. Claudia said:

    In the essay, “Panopticism,” I think that Michel Foucault is responding to the problem that there are unseen observers trying to change the way we act in our lives. (This can be related to how the social media is affecting our lives in that someone or something is trying to make us become something we are not by involving us in the digital world.) There is this idea that someone is watching us and, although we cannot see this observer, he is always there. (“big brother” anyone?) The author is concerned with this issue because we are losing ourselves. A nation of followers would not be able to function if there was no higher authority to guide them. Foucault fears that we rely too much on the guidance of unseen observers. Furthermore, he states that we should be concerned about our individuality because of the ever-growing populations. There are always going to be more and more people being born into our world but do we really want to subject them to the type of life where they must conform to certain social norms instead of doing what they choose to do? This leads to the next reason: people are losing their freedom. They are no longer allowed to do what they want because they want to fit in and be accepted. Although Foucault’s theory of Panopticism was suggested long ago, it still applied today. For example, cell phone companies place advertisements on billboards and show commercials on the television suggesting that people are lame if they do not have at least one form of the latest technology.

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