25 September, 2018
In Michel Foucault’s “Panopticism” essay, he speaks about the underlying problems of life when the plague appeared in a town during the seventeenth century. Foucault starts with daily life and the rules that the members of society had to follow. These rules were not only challenging but basically inhumane due to the splitting of the town into separate quarters. During this quarantine, members would go around one by one to purify each and every one of the households in the village so that the plague would not engulf the life of the townspeople. The overarching theme of the plague was fear in society due to the increasing rate of death throughout this time. The exclusion was the main role of safety but also power throughout Europe. These awful times showed fear in everyone’s face as the plague spread. If you were treated as a plague victim, or what some would call “lepers” or simply an outcast, then you were entirely divided between the healthy and sick. This then leads to Bentham’s Panopticon, which is a tower, “pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower” (331). The major effect of this way of quarantine was due to power because the members or workers could view these inmates’ every move and ultimately, there is always someone in charge of being the head guard. They spied on each prisoner until his/her release from the small rooms. Power and authority go hand in hand in the Panopticon. The guards gain power over the prisoners because they can be watched at all times using the wide windows, but the prisoners don’t have that access because of the way the windows allow light in and out. The Panopticon was not only a place to observe but also a place to learn and change because “it could be used as a machine to carry out experiments, alter behavior, to train or correct individuals. To experiment with medicines and monitor their effects” (337). If you were to find the pro’s and con’s of the Panopticism, you would find not only the ways of evil but of also power, disorder, and time losses. If you were to look at the positives, you would find the advances in science with the ways in which humans react throughout the disease, behavior, etc. From the theory of Panopticism, we figured that the punishments were to leave prisoners in dimly lit jails and use them for science experiments and research.
The idea of Panopticon continually raises questions by readers because of its complex implements to a regular prison and its ever-changing definition of discipline. Foucault defines discipline as several processes throughout the text. He gives a basic definition of discipline by saying that discipline “may be identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of...