Discipline and Punishment, according to Foucault

Discipline and Punish by Foucault is simply a study of the modernized penal system in the eighteenth century. The social context of punishment is discussed first, followed by an analysis of how shifting power dynamics influence punishment. In order to complete this overview and review of the current system, the author starts by looking at the situation prior to the eighteenth century. It is depicted that the most common punishments at the time were corporal punishment and public execution. Furthermore, torture was used to aid police prosecutions at the time. In fact, the penalty used to be a ceremonial act that was directed into the person’s body, and the ritual considered the audience to be of great importance. The act of punishment heavily involved the public since it would even be reported in the popular literature to re-establish the power and authority of the King.

The author illustrates that the different periods in history had very distinct visibility modes that were produced by the power to control society. Subsequently, the relation between disciplinary power and the visibility is the fact that the latter aids the former in the control of the community. In fact, it would be a different scenario if the disciplinary power failed to employ visibility during the activities like provision of torture to the prisoner, disciplining and punishing of the prisoner because of the lack of impact pumped in by the use of visibility. Pointedly, discipline is a range of techniques that are used in controlling the operations of the body. Importantly, it worked by arranging and coercing the person’s experiences and movements of both time and space. This process of constraining the experiences and the moves are efficient when aided by visibility.

Further demonstration of the significant relationship between disciplinary power and the visibility is in the elements of the former. The factors include the observation of hierarchy, judgment normalization and also the examination. Therefore, these processes by the employment of visibility and through the use of human sciences there is the development of the notion of the norm. By definition, Panopticon is a model used for the external surveillance while panopticism is the indication of the internal supervision. The model had an annular building at the periphery and a tower erected at the center that had wide windows that could only be seen through from inside. Besides, the cells also had a window that only allowed light to penetrate through from one side making it impossible for the inmates to see outside the cells.

The backlighting effect that was used on the windows made it possible for the inmates to be observed without knowing the particular time for the observation. However, the presence of the observation tower made it sure to the prisoners that there was always an observer. The prisoners in their cells could not come in contact with the other inmates. Additionally, the panoptic mechanism had arranged partial unities that made it easy for the inspector to continually see and immediately recognize the prisoners in their cells as opposed to the inmates. Therefore, each person is securely confined in his cell where the supervisor in the tower in the center quickly sees him, but he is prevented by the walls from contacting his fellow inmates. Majorly, the effect of this panopticon was the induction of the state of both conscious and permanent visibility in the prisoners hence assuring the automatic functioning of disciplinary power. In fact, the employment of the said particular types of windows in the panoptic system led to the transformation of the inspection idea into the visibility idea.

In essence, the panopticism is like a machine that creates and sustains power relation that is independent of the one exercising the same. Precisely, it avails a condition in which the prisoner is caught in a power situation where he is the original bearer and knows that there exists visibility due to the constant glare of the tower, but again the act is unverifiable since he is unable to see through the glasses. Furthermore, it individualizes and automatizes power in the arrangement that has its mechanisms to produce a relation that enables the individuals to be caught up in the same.

Consequently, the transformation of the supervision idea into a visibility one changes the inmate into a real subjection that is born from the mechanical process of fictitious relation. The prisoner is coerced into servitude without necessarily using force in the constraining of the convict into good behavior. Significantly, the prisoner by seeing the watchtower is assured that the supervisor is watching but is unsure of whether he is being viewed at a particular time hence he tends to portray good behavior, calmness, and the observation of regulation. Also, the more the numerous temporary anonymous observers, the higher the risk of the prisoner being astonished and even the higher the inmate’s anxiety over the awareness of being observed.

Work cited

Foucault, Michel. Discipline And Punish Response. 2017.

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