The Panopticon And Its Relation To Modern Society
The panopticon, a concept prison, was designed by Jeremy Bentham back in 1785. This prison’s main purpose was to allow guards to monitor and view all prisoners from one place. This prison featured a tower at the center. The cells were then built around it. The guards could see through the tower into each room to monitor their activities, but inmates couldn’t see into the tower. Inmates could not see the guards or whether they were being watched. “Visible – The inmate will see the tower at the top of his head, which is visible from all sides. Unverifiable. A prisoner must not be able to tell if they are looking at him at any particular moment. However, he should be able to be certain that they may be. This assumption assumes that prisoners will always behave well because they cannot be certain if they are being watched. The prisoner’s permanent visibility will allow them to control their behavior and make it less likely that guards or the threat of punishment are ever required. This makes power more efficient and economically viable. While the prison’s capacity to control prisoners can rise, the number of prison guards required to run it can decrease. His room is located opposite the central torcher, which gives him axial visibility. However, the divisions of his ring, or the cells that are separated, give him lateral invisibility. This invisibility guarantees order. There is no risk of inmates being convicted of plotting, trying to escape collectively, or planning for new crimes. The guards would have complete control over the prisoner’s movements if they were to be kept in this kind of isolation.
Foucault describes how modern societies and institutions use surveillance to control their citizens using the panopticon. It allows you to perfectly exercise power through all of its uses. It accomplishes this in many ways. It reduces the number who have it and increases the number on whom it is used. It can be triggered at any time and it acts even before crimes, errors or offences are committed. Its strength in these circumstances is its ability to never intervene, it can be exercised spontaneously without noise and it creates a mechanism that has effects that follow each other. It acts directly on individuals, without the use of any other physical instruments than geometry and architecture. This is evident by the structure of societies. A small minority of the population is the “ruling class” and convinces others to follow their lead and live in the way they believe is best. This can’t be done by constant surveillance and violence. “In a sense, the efficiency of power and its constraining forces have passed over to other sides – to the side where it is applied. One who is subjected and aware of a field is responsible for the limitations of power. He makes them play spontaneously on himself. The panopticon’s watchtower is the predecessor to the surveillance cameras that are found in every public transportation system and every building. They are visible at all times and make it clear that they exist. It is impossible to know if these cameras are turned on or if someone is watching. The mere presence of a camera is enough to cause most people not to behave.
Let me quickly talk about industrial and post-industrial societies. In an industrial society, production is the key focus. The norm is blue collar and manual labor jobs. Workers have practical skills, such as plumbing and welding, which can be applied to real-world work. There is no incentive to be innovative or think outside the box. All things are standardised and controlled. It is clear that there is a breakdown in power. This is evident. Managers oversee the work of workers.
Now, we live in post-industrialism. The society has shifted from making actual goods to offering mainly services. There are many more agencies, restaurants, and other services, with more emphasis on theoretical knowledge. The emphasis is on creativity and innovativeness, and there is a greater need for education and advanced degree programs. This new set brings new ideals. The emphasis is on self-motivation, teamwork, and self-organization. In an industrial society, none of these are desirable.
What does the new society have to do with the panopticon The modern society is marked by self-regulation. Now, it is ingrained in us that we are in control of our work lives. However, this power is fictitious. As prisoners, creative workers feel constantly watched. The illusion that employees are independent and free is created by creative agencies. Workers assume that the technology they use in their workplace is spying on them and monitoring their activities. This is to prevent them browsing the internet and increase productivity. While employees don’t know for sure, they assume it. Open-offices provide another method of controlling employees. Employees are always in view, and they don’t have any privacy. They are visible to both their bosses as well as their coworkers. This atmosphere makes it possible for workers to be as productive and efficient as possible. Even though the ideal situation is one that allows for freelancing, or even having a home-office, it is still under constant surveillance. The panopticon is not as visible and direct here. There is a pressure to be productive even from their own home. I struggle with productivity guilt every day. In the creative industries, this hustle culture, which is a work-aholic, is idolised and encouraged. It is hard to be creative when you aren’t working. You feel dreadful. It is a feeling that your time is being wasted. This principle is central to the panopticon. Profitable power. If we believe that working is the only viable option and the only way to make money, then work will be our only choice.
Although we are moving more towards a service-based society, there is still a significant portion of the population who sell their labor. There are many people who work in warehouses, factories, or retail. Capitalist societies are characterized by the desire to maximize profits. As business owners find more efficient ways to make their businesses more profitable, this means that workers are less empowered. The management must ensure that employees are performing well. Technology has replaced the towering watchtower. Each person who works in factories and warehouses is tracked. There are cameras all over the building and electronic devices that track the accuracy or speed of their work. A manager does not have to chase employees and there is no need to keep an eye on the entire plant. They are surrounded by the panopticon, which is inescapable. “… With panopticism, you have a discipline method. This mechanism must make power easier, quicker, more effective, and create subtle coercion in order for society to follow. Managers cannot force workers to work harder, longer, or use violence as a coercive tool. Unemployment is the punishment if you don’t work effectively. The constant threat of being fired is enough to keep order in this capitalistic system.
The panopticon, a concept prison created by Jeremy Bentham and used by Michel Foucault to criticize institutions of power. The metaphor of the panopticon, which was created in 1898, has been used to make connections between different parts of our society. It allows us to see the power that is manifested and modified based on our circumstances. The tower’s influence on how we think and act can also be seen. Since the advent and use of technology and internet, debates have been raging about the link between being seen/being known and surveillance as a means of oppression or control. Many claim they aren’t opposed to this surveillance as they aren’t doing any wrong. However, this surveillance is against our freedom. It doesn’t matter if you argue, “I amn’t doing anything wrong,” Constant surveillance subliminally and fundamentally alters how we interact with each other. The panopticon, which is a light-hearted way to control and rule people, is very efficient.
Foucault, Michel. “Panopticism.” Discipline & Punish.
Sheridan. The 1995 edition of Vintage Books published in New York.