In Michel Foucault’s (1975) excerpt, Panopticism he states that the development of discipline in the 18th and 19th centuries came from he emergence of prison as the form of punishment for every crime. During these times the major crimes committed were from the French Revolution and the major riots and civil unrest in the French society. In these prisons the Panopticon puts the inmates in a different state in which each one is there own separate individual. Foucault states that the major effect of these Panopticon are that they “induce the inmate in a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” ”Such a structure allows individuals to be seen and restricts their ability to communicate with the security, the warden, or other prisoners.” In this case, crowds are nonexistent and each person is confined to their cell where they can be viewed by the watcher. He states that this new form of punishment lead to the development of a whole new kind of individuality for bodies. The brilliance of this prison is that the Panopticon forces blindness onto the prisoner where he or she is never sure if someone’s watching or not, inducing a harmless form of paranoia, keeping people in place.
When a person is accused of a crime, society finds upon itself the responsibility of punishing him or her. The question of morality, however, is finding the perfect punishment in compensation of the crime that was committed. With the Panopticon, rather than breaking them down physically by using tortures like the thumbscrew or whips, prisoners can be broken down mentally, which allows the reconstruction of their mentality. This entire theory is effective due to the natural desire that people in general have to conform to society’s pressures. After all, it is ingrained in the natural being of humans to know that in order to survive, everyone needs a place in society whether it is as the businessman or as a joker. The fear of complete abandonment from this institution allows the system to work properly.
Next, the Panopticon is essential to society in its ability to give a
prisoner the chance of redeeming himself or herself to become a crucial part of society again. Instead of seeing revenge on the prisoners, this system allows them to be reformed through a force of habit. As prisoners get used to the idea that they’re being watched at all times with or without their knowledge, they adjust their behavior to meet society’s standards and norms. Thus, with a strong sense of paranoia, once the prisoner comes out of the Panopticon, he or she will rethink any decisions of breaking the rules. Once the person goes through that phase of the Panopticon imprisonment, he or she is set for a regular life in the real world with human interaction.
In addition, with the Panopticon, power isn’t centralized in the hands of the warden or prison guards. The mere concept of being spied on causes others to display normal behavior, one that they want to portray to society. The real punishment that the prisoner goes through is one within his or her own mind where due to paranoia, the person shapes up to meet the rules of society in what is right rather than wrong. In this case, no one has power over another and even the amount of guards can be lessened; the prisoner is unable to tell the difference as to who is watching or how many people are watching. Power isn’t given to people but is within the architecture of the Panopticon. There will be no more vicious beatings of prisoners and no more degradation of them. In the end, they’re like everyone else, another everyday person in today’s world.
Panopticism creates self-discipline forced into play through one’s own mentality of paranoia and fear, allowing criminals to be broken down mentally instead of physically, to redeem themselves as a part of society again, and to allow power to not be centralized in the hands of the warden or prison guards. It’s not only an effective system but it’s also efficient in the way that those separated from society may still have the ability to blend back in after undergoing this type of imprisonment. As a result, the concept of a Panopticon would certainly be better than the status quo where punishment is used and people are locked away behind bars without given a chance to prove that they’re reformed. Any cruel and unusual punishments that may occur are abolished and finally, for those who have made a mistake or two, redemption is finally possible.
Courtney from Study Moose
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