The Utopia of Orwell and Foucault
“Two ways of exercising power over men, of controlling their relations, of separating out their dangerous mixtures. The plague stricken town, transversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies-this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city” (Foucault, 6) This quote extracted from the Essay Panopticism written by Michel Foucault perfectly describes in detail the controls put on the citizens of Big Brother’s Oceania in George Orwell’s 1984. Through control of relation, surveillance, and separating out their dangerous mixtures Big Brother obtains a government system, which is described by Foucault as a “Utopia.”
The Utopia relies upon more than one method of control as noted by Foucault, but the far most significant method is surveillance. “The telescreen received and transmittes simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, about the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, as long he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque was commanded, he could be seen as well as heard” (Orwell, 6). In Orwell’s 1984 the surveillance is achieved by the distressing, constant presence of the telescreen. No individual was free of the thought that the vigilant telescreen would catch you in some undefiable act, which would lead to unquestionable vaporization. “This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all events are recorded…” (Foucault, 5) The panopticon in Foucault essay is stressing exactly the same purpose as that of the telescreen in Orwell’s 1984. Simply that constant threat of punishment , but only if caught and in order to remain safe you must constantly behave as the ideal you are desired to be.
To have the threat of being watched present, but not knowing whether or not in actuality you are being watched is what leads you to become that ideal member of the Utopia which in essence is exactly what the government wants. The effect of the telescreen was simply complete control over Winston’s every move, thought, and word that came from his mouth.
You watch as he lived in life in fear of the Party, in fear of the Thought Police stripping him of the little that he does have. His mind was racing full of thoughts he couldn’t speak. His heart burned with hatred and anger for the party, which he couldn’t act upon. You can see by the party watching him they suppressed what he said, and did all by posing that tiny threat of being under watch.
The very same threat of being watched constantly can make ones stomach turn but to know that there is an outside force slowly integrating its way into your life can be just as nerve racking. “Thus the Christian school must not simply train docile children; it must also...