Michael Foucault 's Discipline And Punish : The Birth Of The Prison Essay

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Michael Foucault’s chapter Panopticism from his book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, analyzes how power has advanced through the use of surveillance. The chapter explores how surveillance first evolved when the King was the overall dictator and enforcer. The King held all the power; he decided which rules must be followed and the consequences or punishments that were applicable when these rules were disregarded. The idea of observation and surveillance first evolved when the plague epidemic first surfaced. As the plague was highly contagious and responsible for many deaths, the King proposed a plan to ensure those who were infected remained under quarantine to help stop the spread of the disease. These precautions essentially turned each house into a jail cell, where everyone one in that house was not permitted to leave and was prevented from seeing others. This quarantine essentially mimicked how it felt to be contained in jail, confined to your own space without the chance to come and go freely. Foucault says, “the closing of the town and its outlying districts, a prohibition to leave the town on pain of death, the killing of all stray animals; the division of the town into distinct quarters, each governed by an intendant” (Foucault 2002:225). If one tried to leave the town, it was done at a “risk to his life, contagion, or punishment” (Foucault 2002:226). Foucault is explaining how the entire village went into lockdown, no one was allowed in or out.
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