Posts Tagged ‘Panopticism’

Written for a sociology class on Social Change and Movements:

Where the declaration of truth is treason
Where undeniable evidence
Of truth on a screen
Distributed to the world through a web of electric veins
Can be manipulated, distorted
And the lie believed
Where humans
Are mere labels of identification numbers
Constrained, bound to a system
Of omnipresent panopticism –
A mere step away from
Big Brother
Is Watching You

Serve and protect
Is to mercilessly, callously, apathetically
Beat, shoot, blind, blame;
Serve the injustice
Protect the Façade

Apathy, the acceptance
Of “serve and protect”
Of injustice and the Façade

Dissolve from your mind
The lies and the propaganda
Insidiously fed you
Through the ever-deceiving media
To which you are so insistently and blindly inclined

In a whatever singularity
In a whatever label
A whatever number
A whatever identity
Watch them –
As they watch you.
They are only the 1%


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In “Panopticism and the Carceral,” Foucault establishes discipline as “techniques for assuring the ordering of human multiplicities.” As a power relation, he refers to it as the “physics or anatomy of power,” infiltrating almost all aspects of societal institutions – ranging from penitentiaries and correction houses to schools and hospitals. Foucault maintains that there are two significant reasons for the development of the disciplinary methods of the eighteenth century: an increase in the population, therefore resulting in more people to be “supervised” and “manipulated”; and also because of the expansions of the systems of production, resulting in more complex disciplinary structures required.

In Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, several different aspects of Foucault’s theory of discipline are evident. Firstly, that one of the primary objectives of discipline is to “fix.” Social institutions dedicated to this purpose cropped up more consistently during the eighteenth century, such as reformatories. As reformatories, they were designed to “reform” and “fix” criminality in individuals. The first instance in which such a institution is mentioned in The Moonstone is with the introduction of Rosanna. As a thief sent to a reformatory intended to “save forlorn women from drifting back into bad ways,” Rosanna is the representation of the character most acquainted with the eighteenth century institutional disciplinary system designed to counter recidivism.

The second applicable point about Foucault’s discipline is that it is an effective means for the division of labor. This division is apparent in the hierarchy throughout the Verinder household, ranging from the lady of the house and her daughter, to those who are near enough in their confidence to have the privilege of directly attending to them – such as Betteredge himself, and his daughter Penelope – and those even lower beneath the division, such as the other maids, including Rosanna. The prospect of power relation and division is most highly epitomized in the unfulfilled love which Rosanna – a housemaid – so persistently holds for Franklin Blake. The division of power relations renders this relationship to not only be beyond the limits of possibility, but Blake himself cannot even see through this division separating them from two different worlds to even recognize Rosanna’s heart-wrenching sentiments for him.

Foucault explains that panopticism creates the structure for the following: timetables, collective training, exercises and surveillance. Through the investigation carried out by one of the most heavy perpetrators of discipline – the police – these are all evident in their dealings with the servants in attempting to solve the case. The Superintendent determines their freedom of their “timetables” to roam the house, and Sergeant Cuff orders the Frizinghall policeman for constant surveillance of suspects, and, precisely as Foucault relays, “arrests and regulates movements,” and “neutralizes effects of counterpower.”

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