Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Foucault / Panopticism: Discipline and the Production of Individuals - Summary

       Discipline, according to Foucault, produces "the individual" as a subject with distinct characteristics which can be objectively measured. This is an important part of how Panopticism functions as a system of power. The manner in which discipline does this is through three mechanisms:

1. Observing hierarchy. Supervision through observation by eyes that can see but are not seen. Here Foucault draws on Jeremy Bentham's "Pamopticon" structure in which one supervisor can see many supervised but is not seen by them. The establishment of an observing hierarchy demands a certain organization of space to allow for it. This organization of space is of course both the outcome of power and the cause for it.  

2. Normalizing judgment. Measuring the actions of individuals creates a norm through which all actions can be judged. This norm enforces homogeneity but also individualizes since it allows for individuals to be compared to one another and be positioned differently in relation to the norm. You can think of Georg Simmel's example (in "The Metropolis and Mental Life") of money which is an objective measure through which we can rate people and at the same time a source for subjective individuality.

3. Examination. Observing hierarchy and normalizing judgment join together to construct the individual as the object of knowledge and power. The individual is the object of examination, investigation and production of knowledge about him which encode his distinct individuality.  In "Panopticism" Foucault lists three different manners in which knowledge is tied to power. First Foucault says that the invisibility of power compared with the visibility of its subjects. Second, examination "formalizes" the individual within power structures. By documenting individuals Panoptisicm, as a technology of power, uses a homogenic code to classify them. Third, examination makes every individual into a "case" to be studied, measured, compared and judged. This is how systems of power and knowledge produce the individual as subject and object at the same time (see also Foucault's "The Subject and Power.

Panopticism / Foucault - summary 
Part 1:Foucault's notion of discipline
Part 2: discipline  and the production of individuals
Part 3: human sciences
Part 4: disciplinary society
Foucault's panopticism explained

More on and by Foucault: 
Foucault - "Of Other Spaces" - summary   
Foucault's concept of discourse
technology of power

Recommended books by and on Foucault: