Skip to content

Essays On The Panopticon

The Panopticon Essay

The Panopticon

There have been , since the time of the Enlightenment, two distinct models for disciplinary institutions. Both of these models may be seen in the form of prisons. The contemporary ideal of the institutions derives its form from Bentham's Panopticon. In the period shortly following the age of Enlightenment, Bentham, an economist by trade, began to critically evaluate the disciplinary institutions of the day. Seeing that the model of the prison could be characterized as a form of discipline-blockade, he set out to improve the functionality of the prison as well as other institutions. Being an economist, Bentham saw that these institutions were not functionally productive. In describing the discipline blockade form Michel Foucault writes that it is, "turned inwards towards negative functions: arresting evil, breaking communications, suspending time."(209, Discipline and Punish) Now although this may seem befitting of criminal behavior, there is another disciplinary model which, when employed, will achieve far greater results than that previously described. This new form is termed a, "discipline-mechanism" by Foucault.(209) This mechanism is not limited in practice to prisons, its widespread use can form a disciplinary society through its employment in the minute institutions of society. Its deployment will create a disciplinary society where power is not accumulated but is made functional and useful in maintaining societal discipline. However, before singing the praises of this new mechanism, it would be beneficial to analyze the pre-existing forms of discipline and how they lead to this new model. Also, it would not be wise to readily accept this panopticism without realizing the social ramifications of this new disciplinary society. In doing so, one may both uphold this mechanism and recognize its work and effect on the individual.

Before the Enlightenment, individuals who went against the will of the kind were tortured and/or put to death in a spectacle which the whole society had the opportunity to witness. With the age of Enlightenment came a breakdown of the singular authority. This was replaced by a complex system of institutions known as government. Similarly, without the singular identity of power (i.e. the king), the prevalence of these public torture/executions diminished and has, by now, died out almost completely. Rather than kill or maim a perpetrator, the new authority felt it to be more beneficial to incarcerate the individual away from the society in an attempt to reform the offender in order to someday release this criminal turned citizen back into the population. This technique proved to be mostly ineffective. This was due to the fact that the institution had as its goal, to remove the individual from society and in doing so to demonstrate to the criminal the freedoms they had given up by committing their crime. When Foucault states that this institution was, "turned inwards towards negative...

Loading: Checking Spelling


Read more

Surveillance in Foucault's Panopticism and Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron

1800 words - 7 pages Surveillance in Foucault's Panopticism and Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron Ever feel as though someone is watching you? You know that you are the only one in a room, but for some reason you get an eerie feeling that you are not alone? You might not see anyone, but the eyes of a stranger could be gazing down on you. In Foucault's "Panopticism," a new paradigm of discipline is introduced, surveillance. No one dares to break the law, or do anything...

Smile, You’re On Camera Essay

848 words - 3 pages Mitchell Gray’s paper “Urban Surveillance and Panopticism: will we recognize the facial recognition society?” analyzes the effects of the use of facial recognition surveillance devices as a reaction to perceptions of “insecurity” in urban environments. Mitchell Gray views facial recognition systems as “part of an attempt to reduce insecurity through knowledge and vision, but, paradoxically, their use may add to insecurity by transforming society...

Foucault's Discipline and Punish and Power and Sex

1855 words - 7 pages Foucault's "Discipline and Punish" and "Power and Sex" Every great architect is - necessarily - a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age- Frank Lloyd Wright Darkness is meant to conceal, light is meant to expose, and there is power intrinsically imbued in both of these. Murderers hide in the dark, waiting for their victims, and the atrocities of different countries are hidden in history and...

Foucault Panopticism

1235 words - 5 pages Panopticism by Michel Focault Works Cited Not Included “Our society is not one 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; the play of signs defines the anchorages of power; it is not...

Film Analysis: Enemy Of The State Directed by Tony Scott

2118 words - 8 pages In the modern day era, we find in society a ubiquitous usage of technology that seems to be never ending and forever growing. Included with this notion, the broad subject of surveillance is of course included. Contemporary surveillance, or more specifically technological surveillance, has been described as ambiguous; meaning that it is often misunderstood or open to different interpretations. The representation of surveillance within popular...

This essay is about how the concept of the "social construction of reality" is incorrect because of women and elderly athlete participation.

1190 words - 5 pages The Oxford English dictionary states that the work athlete is derived from the word athlos. The word athlos translated to the English language means "to content for a prize." Based on the humanistic study of language, and literature the term athlete has come to mean a competitor in physical exercise. It also comes to mean an individual who by special training and exercise has acquired great physical strength.... a physically powerful, robust,...

Panopticisim and the Social Institution of Religion: Personal Opinion

1187 words - 5 pages Religion can be described as a social institution built up around the idea of a supernatural being or beings, and the relation of human beings to them. In addition, religion provides individuals a belief to which they understand their existence as well network of emotional support during times of distress. Moreover, religious institutions provide individuals a proper perspective of life and establish values. Religion involves three major aspects:...

We Are Big Brother's Reality Television Star

1473 words - 6 pages Today, the American people are obsessed with reality television. Television shows such as, So You Think You Can Dance and The Bachelorette are just two examples of the fifteen reality or unscripted shows that placed on the Top 20 Highest Rated Television Programs in 2010 (Carter). What Americans fail to realize is they too are the stars of their own reality television show. Although their actions are not being broadcasted to the rest of the...

Privacy - It's Time to Control the Use of Electronic Surveillance

1633 words - 7 pages It's Time to Control the Use of Electronic Surveillance       How would you feel if every move you make, every word you say, every number you dial on the telephone, could easily be accessed or monitored by just about anyone in the world? Well, chances are that you and me and many others are currently, or have been, victims of this infringement on privacy. With today's ever growing technology, there is little one can do to ensure...

Panoptical Power in China

3080 words - 12 pages Panoptical Power in China Jeremy Bentham, a leading English prison reformer of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, developed an architectural plan for an ideal prison that he called the Panopticon. Such a prison would consist of a ring of individual cells encircling an observation tower. Each of the cells would open toward the tower and be illuminated by its own outside window. So, by the effect of backlighting, a single guard in the...

Michel Foucault

771 words - 3 pages Foucault, Michel (1926-1984), French philosopher, who attempted to show that the basic ideas which people normally take to be permanent truths about human nature and society change in the course of history. His studies challenged the influence of German political philosopher Karl Marx and Austrian psychoanalyst

Cultural Anthropology


Cultural Anthropology publishes ethnographic writing informed by a wide array of theoretical perspectives, innovative in form and content, and focused on both traditional and emerging topics. It also welcomes essays concerned with theoretical issues, with ethnographic methods and research design in historical perspective, and with ways cultural analysis can address broader public audiences and interests.

Coverage: 1986-2010 (Vol. 1, No. 1 - Vol. 25, No. 4)

Moving Wall: 7 years (What is the moving wall?)

The "moving wall" represents the time period between the last issue available in JSTOR and the most recently published issue of a journal. Moving walls are generally represented in years. In rare instances, a publisher has elected to have a "zero" moving wall, so their current issues are available in JSTOR shortly after publication.
Note: In calculating the moving wall, the current year is not counted.
For example, if the current year is 2008 and a journal has a 5 year moving wall, articles from the year 2002 are available.

Terms Related to the Moving Wall
Fixed walls: Journals with no new volumes being added to the archive.
Absorbed: Journals that are combined with another title.
Complete: Journals that are no longer published or that have been combined with another title.

ISSN: 08867356

EISSN: 15481360

Subjects: Anthropology, Social Sciences

Collections: Arts & Sciences II Collection, JSTOR Essential Collection