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Panopticism

Focault Panopticism
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 that the beautiful totality of the individual is amputated, repressed, altered by our social order, it is rather that the individual is carefully fabricated in it, according to a whole technique of forces and bodies. (pp.333-34)
In the essay, Panopticism, by Michel Focault, he makes the argument that we live in a society of surveillance. Meaning that our society is based on amalgamation of forces and bodies all of which act to create the individual. It is principally this surveillance which forms the basis of power that draws the individual to believe that the world he lives in is one that is continually watching over him. This constant friction of mental forces (those who fear or have a certain curiosity) shapes who the individual becomes within the society. According to this passage, Focault gives support to the basic argument concerning the panopticon, that communication is key to knowledge. Within the panopticon, there is no communication among the prisoners or those who view them. This becomes another aspect of power; it underlies the main idea of separation and communication as a form of shaping forces in the panopticon.

The first phrase in the passage testifies to the basic structure of our society. The goal for our society is to procure for a small number, or even for a single individual, the instantaneous view of a great multitude (333, Focault). The purpose of such a society is so that relations between the individual and the state can be better controlled. That the infinitely small of political power(331, Focault) who run the state can watch the many citizens. It must be acknowledged that to view each citizen is not simply to watch them, but to exercise the power that surveillance entails.
And unlike the methods of judicial or administrative writing, what was registered was in this way were forms of behavior, attitudes, possibilities, suspicions a permanent account of individuals behavior.(331, Focault)
The powerful results of surveillance can be seen when Focault discusses lepers and plague victims. The persons with the plague (lepers were included in this group) were always observed to account for their presence. These people were supposed to be present at their windows for attendance. Where they not present at the time, they were marked as dead. Their family would be removed, the house would be cleaned out, perfumed, and then, a mere four hours later, people would move back in. Obviously, the fear of not being observed would be strong in this situation, a direct result of the drastic measures taken once someones presence could not be observed. Though this fear has the opposite motivation of the healthy citizens, who, knowing they are being watched, are afraid to do wrong, it works on the same basic principle. That if one knows they are being watched, it remains a constant consideration in their mind, regardless of the presence of an observer, the fear will always be present.
The Panopticon, a prison described by Foucault, is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing (321, Foucault). This literally means that in the formation of the panopticon those who are being seen can not see one another and the one who sees everything can never be seen. That is the most important tool of the panopticon. Foucault makes this assumption about todays society by saying that we are always being watched whether we know it or not. One always keeps an eye over their shoulder as a result of the constant fear that someone is watching them. This consideration forms the basis of power for those who have the control and power – society, government, and state. The power gives those in charge a safety net, making the individual conscious of the presence of a hidden onlooker, causing them to think one twice

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