At the outset, the term Panopticism seeks to define Michael, Foucault’s social theory as depicted in the book Discipline and Punish. With this regard, a Panopticon is the name given to a circular building that houses an observation tower at the centre, and surrounded by an outer wall. The surrounding walls contain cells in which occupants stay locked in. This design serves the purpose of increasing security through the effective facilitation of better surveillance by transforming a crowd into a collection of individuals (Foucault, 306).
Relevantly, according to Foucault (307), the panopticon is a representation of the evident ways in which discipline and punishment are depicted in the modern-day society. The author considers it as a representative diagram of active power in today’s society. This is visible through the understanding of the panopticon’s plan that depicts the operation of observation and also examination processes. Focusing on the panopticon, the author utilizes it as a descriptive symbol of the entire intended argument that seeks to illustrate the transformation of crowds using panopticon’s structure. Furthermore, the author evidently depicts this through the embodiment of the theory of discipline in a building that consequently eases up the performance of operations such as observation and examination. Development of the panopticon satisfies the immediate need to implement certain measures that in turn protect the society. Therefore, the panopticon allows for efficient operation of power.
As illustrated in the book, visibility is a trap because each individual locked up in the panopticon could be seen or communicate with neither the other prisoners nor the warders. Thus, this aspect abolishes the crowd through segregation of each individual. Through this segregation brought about by panopticon’s structure, individuals become their own neighbors since none can communicate with the other at any time. This further places the panopticon in the spotlight for inducing a sense of unremitting visibility consequently facilitating the operation of power. This structural setting thus enhances the translation of a huge crowd into a collection of individuals. Moreover, the author insists on the effectiveness of panopticon’s design with regard to its intent by mentioning that power ought to be visible but unverifiable in any way. The ability of the prisoners to see the tower at any time but denial of communication as well as the ability to ascertain if they are under watch explains its intent to turn the prisoners into a collection of individuals.
This design tactic illustrates the effectiveness in controlling people and maintaining the status quo through the mobilization of power against the extraordinary “evils.” This is made possible through the generalization of the way humans function aimed at defining the existent power relations as seen in everyday life. The panopticon does not seek to represent a dream building but instead it symbolically acts as a symbol of power concealed to its ultimate form. This is because the panopticon symbolically makes the operations of power almost perfect through the increased number of controllable people.
Similarly, the subsequent decrease in the number needed to control the vast majority, depicted as a crowd, further boosts effective operation of power. More precisely, the mentality infused into the prisoners mind’s acts as a source of power to the warders since the prisoners think they are being watched even when they are not. Resultantly, this aspect further contributes to the intended effect of changing the crowd into a collection of individuals.
Brunon-Ernst, Anne. Beyond Foucault: New Perspectives on Bentham’s Panopticon. Farnham:
Ashgate, 2012. Print.
Foucault, Michel. Panopticism. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. Print.