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Foucault & Constructions of Power Michel Foucault (226) describe

Michel Foucault (226) describes the panopticon as a mode of surveillance in which individuals are constantly under observation by authorities and are in all ways subject to the supervision and oversight of these authority figures. Indeed, Foucault (227) sees the panopticon as an enclosed, segmented space observed at every point and in which individuals are literally inserted into a fixed place. The resulting system is one in which any meaningful kind of freedom is absent and in which the individual (often an inmate in a prison) is subject to a state of conscious and permanent visibility. It is this permanent visibility imposed upon those who are observed which gives to the observers an enormous amount of power and an equally enormous capacity for inflicting punishment and control on those who are being observed.

Further, Foucault (232) argues that the effect of panopticism is to disindividualize power. In essence, this means that the power held by those who man or staff the panopticon derives less from any of their personal attributes than from the fact that they are elements in a surveillance machine that is capable of controlling those who are being observed. The disciplinary regime thus created by the panopticon can be as punitive and harsh as is needed at any given time.

For Foucault (239), the ideal manifestation of the panopticon is the prison with its tiers of cells arranged in a circle and the doors or fronts of those cells always visible to the eye or the gaze of the wardens. The gaze becomes paramount in such a system because it becomes capable of fixing the location of the individual inmate, tracking all of the inmate's movements and recording every nuance of the inmate's behavior. Power is a mechanistic artifact of inspection that functions ceaselessly because as Foucault (226) put it, "the gaze is alert everywhere."

Power comes in Foucault's (226) formulation not from knowledge per se, but from the ...

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