The Panopticon Essay

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Sam Matthew Kirby Lund English Comp 101 2 November 2011 Power, Society, and the Panopticon During my teenage years I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that usually affects the intestines and colon. I was diagnosed when I was 13 years old and had surgery to remove a part of my colon when I was 16. After the surgery I was in the hospital for seven days and for the first three days I could not eat or walk. For the next two days I was eating and could walk with help and on the last two days I could finally eat and walk on my own. So during those seven days I spent in a hospital room, I never once thought about how the hospital was structured and how that affected the power hierarchy. But after reading Foucault’s essay “Panopticism” I better understand how a hospital and other social institutions are so closely related to the panopticon, “…a marvelous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put it to, produces homogeneous effects of power” (289). By looking at the power structure represented by the panopticon in Foucault’s essay, I believe that social institutions, hospitals especially, are representative of panopticism in today’s society. Using my story as an example, have you ever thought about how society and many of its institutions including factories, schools, and hospitals are similar to a prison? The Michel Foucault essay, “Panopticism” explains how society and social institutions relate to panopticans and disciplinary systems in society. Two of the main elements in his essay are the physical structure of the panopticon and the philosophical idea of the panopticon. As a physical structure, the architectural panopticon is a fantastic building designed by Jeremy Bentham, which became the symbol of Foucault's concept. From the center of the panopticon the controller can see every individual room or cell.

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