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Panopticism An Essay Written By Michel Foucault

1491 words - 6 pages

Subjectivity can be found in almost every aspect of society; past, present, and future. In other words, whether it’s between a ruler and his empire, a government and its citizens, or even students being subject to the rules of a school, people have always been in a condition of being subject. In this position they are the ones who lack the power and the control, whereas those who they are subject to— have the power and control. Because of this, the subject might act accordingly to whomever or whatever they are subject to.
In Michel Foucault‘s essay, Panopticism, he argues that the structure of the Panopticon is similar to the power structure of our society and ultimately, it falls under the concept of subjectivity. The Panopticon is a prison design that is made up of a large room, surrounded by cells for prisoners. There is a tower in the center that allows a guard to watch the prisoners and keep order over them. However, the most important thing about this is that the guard is not visible to the prisoners from the outside. Foucault states that it creates the allusion that the prisoners are always being watched. By letting the prisoners know they’re being watched but not when they’re being watched gives the watchers ultimate power over the prisoner. Because of this, the prisoners behave and follow the rules to avoid being punished by the guard. The guard doesn’t even need to be present for the allusion to work. Another example of the effect is the cameras at a store. People know cameras are present, generally stopping people from stealing because they know they’re being watched. Overall, the Panopticon has created Panopticism; the theory that when someone is being watched, they have the freedom to do whatever, but act a certain way because they are being watched.
This theory of Panopticism can also be seen in the Clint Eastwood film, Gran Torino. Gran Torino is a film about a tough, bitter, and angry man named Walt Kowalski. He lives in a neighborhood that was once all white, but has become populated by many Asian families. Although he is mourning the loss of his wife, he watches over the Asian controlled neighborhood. Throughout the film he realizes he’s closer to his new neighbors than he is with his own family. Walt knows what’s happening in the neighborhood and throughout the film, always seems to be at the right place at the right time. In one part of the film, he manages to help one of the young Asian girls in danger of getting assaulted by a few street thugs— even though he caught her brother trying to steal his Gran Torino. Thao is then forced to work for him as punishment in order to make amends. This supports the idea of Panopticism or the concept of a Panopiticon. There is a watcher, and if the watched, not knowing if their being watched, does something wrong, they will be punished. Walt acts like he’s not watching the neighborhood, but still they look to him for protection from the local gang members. In addition, it causes them to...

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