Discussion: "Panopticism" in Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault

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Title: "Panopticism" in Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault
Discussion Facilitator: Kellye McBride
Teacher bio: http://peoplescolloquium.org/teacher-bios/

Reading: https://foucault.info/documents/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.panOpticism/

This discussion will be a close reading of the “Panopticism” chapter from Discipline and Punish, which will center on Foucault’s analysis of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon. Foucault elaborates upon the function of disciplinary mechanisms in such a prison and illustrates the function of discipline as an apparatus of power. The ever-visible inmate, Foucault suggests, is always “the object of information, never a subject in communication,” stating that

“He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.”

This discussion will attempt to answer the question of how the gaze functions as a mechanism of power and how it encourages perpetual self-monitoring. Furthermore, we will compare the structural similarities between the prison system and other institutions (such as schools, corporations, and the military) in an effort to understand the prison system’s far reaching implications.