Thursday, 25 October 2012

Lecture Three - Panopticism.

  • social control
  • the way society affects our unconscious
  • the power institutions hold over us - prisons, army, police or family, marriage etc

Lecture aims
  • understand the principles of the panopticon
  • understand michael foucault's concept of 'disciplinary society'
  • consider the idea that disciplinary society is a way of making individuals 'productive' and 'useful'
  • understand foucault's idea of techniques of the body and 'docile' bodies

Michel Foucault (1926 - 1884)
  • books
    • 'madness and civilaisation'
    • 'discipline and the punish: the birth of prison'

The Great confinement
  • late 1600's
  • 'houses of correction' to curb unemployment and idleness
  • mad people were seen as the fabric of society, no separation (before 1600's)
  • new sensibility started to emerge, new attitude to work and social usefulness towards work
  • anxiety started to emerge around the people who were said to be 'socially useless'
  • houses of correction started to be built.. prisons/factories
  • criminals, drunks, diseased, single mothers
  • were assigned to work and if they didn't they were physically beaten
  • a way of making the unproductive, productive
  • making them better people through the honesty of work
  • 18th century, houses of correction were started to be seen as a massive mistake
  • people inside would influence each other: sane to insane, criminal to non criminal
  • special institutions then came about to correct the insane, the birth of asylum
  • correcting the inmates in a very different way to the houses of correction
  • no physical violence but more subtle techniques, like being treated like chill dren
  • if they behaved appropriately they would be given awards and if bad they would be chastised
  • shift from premodern society - physical control to modern society to social control
  • modern form of discipline
  • new forms of institutional specialist knowledge, therefore legitimising them. psychology and psychiatry
  • new group of experts
  • these institutions affect the way we think and control our behaviour
  • start to take control of our own discipline

The Pillory
  • visible reminder of the power of the state
  • visible and disgusting punishments
  • reminder to not test the power
  • based on fear

Disciplinary society and disciplinary power
  • modern form of discipline
  • mental rather than physical
  • infuses every aspect of our lives
  • 'The Panopticon' designed by Jeremy Bentham in 1791
  • proposed by Bentham as a multifunctional building: workhouse, prison, asylum etc
  • circular building, with cells along the walls, number of floors, each cell is totally open from the front, large window at the back
  • has a very strong mental effect
  • Bentham believed it would function perfectly
  • inmates constantly staring into the centre where the guards would be. Inmates could not see each other but just the constant surveillance of the supervisors
  • opposite to the dungeon - hide, lock away deviant classes, forgotten about
  • panopticon - light, visible, everything can be seen, object of scrutiny and study
  • constantly reminded that you are being watched by someone who expects you to behave in a certain way
  • never behave in a way your supervisor wouldn't want you to as you would be spotted and punished
  • permanently isolated, no one to look at or talk to 
  • psychological torture
  • 'the panopticon internalises in the individual the conscious state that he is always being watched'
  • 'induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permeant visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power'
  • no longer needed guards, people controlled themselves
  • Foucault believes this building is like an analogy for our society
  • system for classifying and scrutiny
  • reforms prisoners, helps treat patients, helps instruct school children, helps confine and study the insane, helps supervise workers, helps but beggars and idlers to work
  • start to behave in the interests of the institution
  • what foucault is describing is a transformation in western societies from a form of power imposed by a 'ruler' to a new mode of power called 'panopticism'

Modern examples
  • open plan office
    • social
    • workers in open plan offices can always be seen by the boos
    • less social because alway being watched
  • open plan bars
    • everything is visible to bouncers and bar staff
    • socially awkward because you're always on display
    • change your behaviour
  • google maps
    • every single street in the world can be viewed
    • live in a surveillance society
    • every aspect of lives is recorded
  • lecture theatres
    • lecturer can see everyone
    • students limited view
    • Pentonville prison - lecture, barrier between seats
  • registers
    • able to keep tabs
    • form of surveillance
  • gyms
    • open plan
    • windows
    • demonstrating your health
  • social media
    • you are aware everything is observed and monitored
    • makes you behave in a certain way
    • you can almost shape an identity for yourself

Relationship between power knowledge and the body
  • disciplinary society produce what Faucault calls 'docile bodies'
  • self monitoring, self correcting, obedient bodies
  • e.g soldier
  • disciplinary techniques - e.g 5 a day, the ideal body

Foucault and power
  • his definition is not a top-down model as with Marxism
  • power is not a thing or a capacity people have - it is a relation between different individuals and groups and only exists when it is being exercised
  • the exercise of power relies on there being the capacity for power to be resisted
  • 'where there is power, there is resistance'

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