Essay on The Panopticon

1740 Words 7 Pages
The Panopticon

There have been , since the time of the Enlightenment, two distinct models for disciplinary institutions. Both of these models may be seen in the form of prisons. The contemporary ideal of the institutions derives its form from Bentham's Panopticon. In the period shortly following the age of Enlightenment, Bentham, an economist by trade, began to critically evaluate the disciplinary institutions of the day. Seeing that the model of the prison could be characterized as a form of discipline-blockade, he set out to improve the functionality of the prison as well as other institutions. Being an economist, Bentham saw that these institutions were not functionally productive. In describing the discipline blockade form
…show more content…
Before the Enlightenment, individuals who went against the will of the kind were tortured and/or put to death in a spectacle which the whole society had the opportunity to witness. With the age of Enlightenment came a breakdown of the singular authority. This was replaced by a complex system of institutions known as government. Similarly, without the singular identity of power (i.e. the king), the prevalence of these public torture/executions diminished and has, by now, died out almost completely. Rather than kill or maim a perpetrator, the new authority felt it to be more beneficial to incarcerate the individual away from the society in an attempt to reform the offender in order to someday release this criminal turned citizen back into the population. This technique proved to be mostly ineffective. This was due to the fact that the institution had as its goal, to remove the individual from society and in doing so to demonstrate to the criminal the freedoms they had given up by committing their crime. When Foucault states that this institution was, "turned inwards towards negative functions,"(209) he is saying that by breaking communication with society and being incarcerated and isolated, this system served no purpose of reform or discipline. It did however, punish the offender by removing freedoms and suspending time. The offender was not studied nor helped towards the goal of reform and release into the society of discipline.

Seeing this,
Open Document