Monday, 22 November 2010

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Panopticism in Contemporary Society

Hospitals today are a prime example of Panopticism in modern day society. First of all looking at the open view wards for all to see, the wards contain “so many small theatre, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible” (Foucault) In Thomas, 2000, p64, for all to see each persons situation and state of illness.

The patients in hospital are like docile bodies, obedient and controllable under the doctor’s orders.  Patients willingly submit themselves to the doctor’s power taking their judgement and putting their trust into them. There is a form of discipline and power represented throughout the hospital.

With your details situated at the bottom of your bed, knowledge of your illness is available for all to see “this document bears the name, age, sex of everyone, notwithstanding his conditions,” (p61) and sits with you, your flaws on show to all without much you can do about it making you an object with an imperfection. Being given a title due to your illness they are basically “branding (mad/sane: dangerous/harmless: normal/ abnormal.)”

Being visible at all times patients will self regulate their behaviour because of the chance that they are being watched constantly, this causes doctors and workers “to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assure the automatic functioning of power,” (p65) meaning that patients will most likely obey they rules, follow doctors orders and judgements and will not attempt to misbehave or escape.  

Separations are unnecessary and exist merely as curtains in the wards because of the state of consciousness that is powered into patients. “There were no more bars, no more chains, no more heavy locks: all that was needed was that the separations should be clear and the opening well arranged”(p66) in order for all to be seen and create the conscious illusion in the patient’s mind, that they are visible and under control at all times.

Quotes taken from:

Thomas, J. (2000) Reading Images, NY, Palgrave McMullan