What is Panopticism and what in the world does it pertain to? These are some of the questions that I asked myself as I began to read this interesting essay by Michel Foucault. His work is central to many of the Humanities and social science parts of life. He came up with idea that people govern themselves, and his Panopticism essay revolves basically around this central idea. There are many panoptic examples in society today that have both positive and negative connotation. Generally I believe the panoptic theory is associated with negative experiences.
The panoptic idea was started by Jeremy Betham, who is a famous architect that created original panopticon. This idea is a particular layout of a prison that was exceptionally well thought out. A tower stands in the middle of the cells with a big window above to let sunlight in, while the cells are circled around this huge tower in the middle.
This forces the prisoners to have their eyes focused on the tower and the guard in the tower at all times. There is one particular thing about this set up that Bentham made very tricky. The sun shines down through the tower and shines directly into the prisoners eyes. As a result of this the prisoners always think someone is watching them.
In the first part of this essay he begins to talk about the people of Europe being infected with the plague. This plague infected nearly half of the European societies. In order to keep the disease from being spread through the air, the people infected were under strict surveillance and had to be locked in their homes. Many military men guarded the gates that surrounded the infected villages, while many other militia guarded the town hall to ensure the obedience of the people.