Power of Surveillance in our Society.
In Michel Foucault's essay, "Panopticism", he makes the argument that we are all living in a society of surveillance where discipline is being effectively achieved through the power of surveillance. The power of surveillance, as described by Foucault, is "visible and unverifiable" (312), and is the basis for forming discipline in society because it draws the individual to believe that the world he lives in is one that is continually watching over him. Constant surveillance brings about anxiety resulting in discipline in the individual. According to Foucault, the power and effectiveness of this model of surveillance in achieving discipline makes the use physical force as in the traditional model of prisons in the past no longer necessary. He uses Bentham's Panopticon to illustrate the power of surveillance. .
The Panopticon is a marvelous machine which, whatever use one may wish to put it to, produces homogeneous effects of power It is not necessary to use force to constrain the convict to good behaviour, the madman to calm, the worker to work, the schoolboy to application, the patient to the observation of the regulations. (313) .
I think that the power of surveillance is not the absolute key to discipline in our society. The panoptic model works because of the psychological effect it imposes on us. Whenever it is unable to bring about this psychological effect, it fails in bringing about discipline in the society. The myriad of disorders and crime still present today is clear evidence that there are limitations of the panoptic model. .
Before we can further discuss on the limitations of surveillance in discipline we have to understand how surveillance work under the Panoptic model. Panopticism, as put forward by Foucault, is a principle based on the Panopticon, a prison designed by an English reformer and philosopher named Bentham. The Panopticon consists of a central tower encircled by a ring of cells.