Michel Foucault and Power Essay examples

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Michel Foucault

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Have you ever realized that we live in the society surrounded by panopticism? In our modern society, we live under the surveillance of the greater power, our every step and action is watched. According to Michel Foucault’s definition, panoticism is “the general principle of a new ‘political anatomy’ whose object and end are not the relations of sovereignty but the relations of discipline” (Foucault 295). It is a practice to discipline the modern society and gone are the days of crucifying and beheading deviants. Panopticism is refined in the vision of Jeremy Bentham’s design of penitentiary, the Panopticon. The architectural structure of Panopticon is composed of a supervisor central tower housing with a ring of cells surrounding it. Every cell is separated with sidewalls and every inmate is visible from the central tower house, however, one cannot see into it from the ring. In most aspects of the society, whether in hospitals, schools or workplace, panopticisim exists as the form of power. As an example, my computer lab in my high school made use of the structural panopticon and enacted Michel Foucault’s visualization of visibility and power. Panopticism put forward the idea of “visibility is a trap” (Foucault 286), and in a similar fashion, my computer lab in high school utilizes the same concept in disciplining the students. Physically, the orientation of my computer lab can be illustrated as an auditorium where the teacher table is located at the bottom level and across from the student computers which allows a greater visibility of all the students. The students’ workstations are positioned so that students are facing the teacher, whereas the computer screens are set up to face the back of the room. While the student computers are arranged in the form of rows and each row is located at a step higher than its previous row. Moreover, the computers are located approximately two feet apart from each, which, separates each student into their own different blocks. At the back of the room, a large mirror is placed on the wall to allow teacher to monitor every student actions. To further increase the level of visibility of disciplining the students, the teacher’s computer is programmed so that it can control and access every student computer. On-going activities on each student’s computers are visible through the teacher’s computer. The teacher is given the authority to stop whatever irrelevant activities on the student computer. The structure of the panopticon is highly identical to the structure of my high school computer lab. First of all, the division of the student computers is similar to the placement of each prisoner in its own cell in the structuring of the “Panopticon” that was designed by Jeremy Bentham. The separation of each student computer functions correspondingly as the panopticon’s “side walls [that] prevent him (individual) from coming into contact with his companions” (Foucault 287). Although the separation of the student computers does not completely restrict the student contacts like the “side walls”, it reduces the possibility for the students to work together with one another. The two feet distance reduces the likelihood of passing notes during exams or the overloud chattering of students during the class. The separation is still proven effective in avoiding the “compact, swarming, howling masses” (Foucault 286) of the students in the act to fight against the higher power – in which the higher power refers to the teacher in charge. Secondly, the back wall mirror also disciplines the students by playing the game of mind, “he is seen, but he does not see” (Foucault 287). The purpose of the back wall mirror is to closely observe the student behavior in class. It is to prevent students from being able to play with their mobile phone or engage in an irrelevant conversation during the class or even vandalizing school properties. This