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View Diary: The Surveillance State As Foucault's Panopticon (327 comments)

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  •  I will not comment (6+ / 0-)

    I will not say one word about the Foucault reference. No, I will not. I don't need to make anyone else mad at me, and it won't help the conversation any. Now, it it gets to be popular, ok. I would only suggest that each person recall that Foucault was arguing that the Gaze was a metaphor of control for the shift to the modern state. We are no longer in that formulation of power. If we can determine the metaphor manifesting in our discourse, then that ain't it.

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 05:57:52 AM PDT

    •  ;) n/t (0+ / 0-)

      At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

      by serendipityisabitch on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 06:41:07 AM PDT

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    •  "Panopticon" was a real life design for prisons. (1+ / 0-)
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      serendipityisabitch

      So the metaphor fails.  The prison wasn't a prison because the inmates would imagine themselves constantly observed.  The prison was a prison because it was a prison.

      So for the metaphor to work, first, we'd have to live in a prison.  Then the observation makes our prison into a prison where inmates are expected to behave according to known prison rules.  In real life, there is only observation----at least, in the US.  In REAL police states, there's much more, like restraints.  So the metaphor failed.

      HEY COGNITIVE INFILTRATORS! I googled "confirmation bias" and Daily Kos raided my house! And and and smashed my hard drives! Ask CNN, it's all truthy!

      by Inland on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 07:42:52 AM PDT

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    •  Not quite 'the modern state' (4+ / 0-)

      but the modern notion of 'subjectivity'. I would argue it still applies, as the notion of 'subjectivity' at the heart of the capitalist narrative is still the same.

      That said, per my comment below, Ray's reading of Foucault [like most out there], completely misses the underlying point of his work...

      “It takes no compromise to give people their rights...it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.” ― Harvey Milk

      by lucid on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 09:34:14 AM PDT

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    •  I don't agree. (2+ / 0-)
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      The Geogre, JosephK74

      Using the term "panoptic" may seem archaic, but I don't think it is even metaphorical:  it marks the beginning of a new regime of power, and I don't understand why that regime would not be legible to us as well.  

      As a practice of punishment, of course, physical and spatial restraint has been outmoded by technology, which now permits documentation of location and activity.  No wonder, then, that in the more "liberal" Western Europe there is argumentation to reduce the number of prisons by tracking non-violent criminals.  

      •  The subject, not subjective state (3+ / 0-)

        Foucault is talking about constituting the subject as defined by the discourse of power, but that's not the same thing as the subjective self. Philosophers were arguing for the ineffability of the individual from 1750, leading to the Romantic philosophical tradition. The discourse of power sought to re-codify that ineffable and uncodable self into a subject/citizen rather than an individual to make it operative in a repetitive manner for discipline and correction.

        One reason I dislike Foucault's partial discussion is that, while he's a fun reader of history, he's a prejudicial reader. At the same time that the codes of Gaze were going on, there were codes of aberration belonging to blood and known by the touch. Remember that it was an age of phrenology and Types. The skull form told the tale without any gaze. This touch resistance may have been a resistant ideology of paternalism striking back against the emergent ideology of observation and empiricism, but it was present.

        The subjective self still operates, curiously, as ineffable. Despite the onslaught of behaviorism and pragmatism, the operative philosophy for most people about themselves is still the saccharined and pleasing belief in irreducible individuality that would mandate observation and observation that is meaningless without context, context meaningless without narrative, narrative meaningless without intent.

        Everyone's innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 10:39:31 AM PDT

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        •  Not sure I'm following you on all points here (2+ / 0-)
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          JosephK74, The Geogre

          Again, I come to the text through architectural history (of all things) and not philosophy, though I did have a good dose of critical theory and cultural studies in my grad school coursework.  

          That said, I'm not sure what you mean by the subjective state and its differentiation from the subject.  My understanding is that the subject is formed by specific practices.  "Discourses of power" can't re-codify anything:  they simply describe a set of discursive practices in place, and those practices don't have to be linear.  So, when you say the "same time that the codes of Gaze were going on," I have to wonder in temporal terms what you're talking about.  The age of phrenology and types belonged (thankfully) to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though the discursive practices described by the gaze began a century earlier.  

          There may be some strands (rhizomes?) historically-speaking of subjectivity that pertain to contemporary conditions, but if we are in the same discursive space as the 18th century, the current forms of subjectivity, I would argue, would be unrecognizable to someone living 200 years ago, necessarily so.  

          •  Elements of just (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Geogre

            about all social systems can be found at nearly all points in history.  I guess the appropriate rejoinder to Geogre is that while we find elements of biopower (phrenology) within the disciplinary regime of power, it is nonetheless the panoptic model that organizes and dominates that historical period.  It's similar with capitalism.  You can find elements of capitalism under feudalism, but nonetheless it is the feudal model that organizes economy in that time period; including capitalist behaviors.  

            I think there are real questions of the degree to which we remain a disciplinary or panoptic society today.  Foucault, of course, thought that we had moved to biopower or that form of power that seeks to regulate all the functions of life and reproduction, e.g., preventative medicine.  Deleuze suggested that we were moving to a "control society".  Where disciplinary society seeks to form every element of the body and mind (Napoleon's extraordinary training of bodies down to the smallest detail, the internalization of power through the panopticon forming a subject as jailor), in a control society we're completely free (power no longer strives to completely form bodies and minds), but bodies are regulated through a modulation of the field of choice.  For example, when I google something or sign on to dk, the options I'm presented with are based on my prior browser history and based on what interested other people who did similar searches.  I'm completely free to follow whatever links I might like, but the choice of links is pre-structured by power.  It's like the film Cube where you can go through any open door you like.  This is a very different form of power.  It's a structuration of choices rather than a formation of body/minds.

            •  I like your discussion (1+ / 0-)
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              JosephK74

              I was distinguishing "subject," as in "that person is a British subject" or "subject to the law" from "subjective consciousness" or "conception of the self." Foucault argues that the discourse of power Utilitarianism enunciated centered on power through the observation of the subject. The person observed was subjected to power and control. The doctor had to see the patient (Birth of the Clinic, and the penitentiary had to quantify the penance of the individual by making the portion of the person that is the subject under the gaze of the judge.

              In work done by others on the early penitentiary, we see a distinction made between the first prison reformers, who were Methodists, who sought to make jail a place of penance by method and regularity into a later utilitarian compromise. The utilitarian realizes that he cannot tell if you're repenting, but the part of you that is in play in power can be observed suspiciously and become a subject.

              Another power formation would be the old paternalistic world view, where God works in a plenum and we all occupy a singular station. Each person's value is determined by "station" or position in an infinite registry. Such stations are intended to be instantly known to the person experiencing them as well as all others. Thus, a footman should not wish to be more.

              I suspect that this paternalistic impulse was surviving in the many "races of man" and phrenology crazes that were simultaneous with the gaze configuration.

              I think the idea that we are moving into a place of power without gaze is certainly true. Arguably, we lose the power to our own internal construction of the image of power. This, to me, matches more closely the "ideological state apparatus" of ideology than any useful or wielded system.  (We have no power because we do the work of the powerful for them by constructing them in our minds, even if we are one of them.)

              Everyone's innocent of some crime.

              by The Geogre on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 04:24:28 PM PDT

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