<![CDATA[UIC Social Theory - Foucault]]>Sun, 31 Jan 2016 05:50:47 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[disciplinary power, Panopticism, and reatil industries ]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 19:19:10 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/disciplinary-powerpanopticism-and-reatil-industriesCarlos Fragoso

Foucault Blog

Michel Foucault was a French philosopher and social theorists who explained the connection between power, knowledge, and discourse. Focusing on the human body, he also theorized three techniques that are used to establish disciplinary power on docile bodies. One being scale of control, where one treats the body as individual parts rather than a whole, allowing for subtle coercion. Second, there is the object of control where the focus shifts from behavior of the body but the movement that the body exerts and our control over this body through exercise/repetition. Finally, we have modality where there is unyielding control through supervision and the individual body is supervised to make sure movements and activities are done right. However, these three techniques are only used to establish disciplinary power and once the body is controlled, there is no longer a need for this to be constant. The controlled body is now conditioned to behave and move a certain way in the field.

Foucault also elaborated on Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon and how this was an example of disciplinary power once behaviors were internalized. The panopticon was set to make power visible yet unverifiable through its positioning in prisons. A large tower in the center of a prison with inmates’ cells surrounding it, it was used to enforce its power without any inmate actually knowing if it was vacant or not. The panopticon was seen to have three main purposes, to enclose and bound space, deprive of knowledge (of knowing if a guard was actually in the tower or not), and finally conceal its power. Retail industries are able to control docile bodies, their employees, by establishing disciplinary power and utilize panoptic power through its use of the “mystery shopper.”

It is no surprise that majority of industries require employees to behave and speak a certain way in order to represent the company in the best way possible. A “mystery shopper” is a company’s way of testing where their employees are in terms of initiative, knowledge, and customer service. Management is usually aware of what time of month this shopper will be present, but they themselves do not know exactly who this person is. The entire store is critiqued and given a score based on the experience of this “shopper.” It is with the training and discipline from employers that one is able to receive an admirable score, thus reflecting the training and effectiveness of that store’s management.  

In this field, the employees can be seen as docile bodies, unaware of company specifics and how to perform in reflection to their store’s needs. Retail companies establish disciplinary power the way Foucault theorized. Companies treat the body as individual parts by controlling their movement and enforcing the proper ways in which to act. Their voice is an example of this segmented control. In order to appeal to the customer, an employee must modify their approach with vocal inflection, showing a tone of concern for the customer’s wants and needs. In order to upsell, a customer must be given all the information of current promotions or sales, treating this part of the employee’s body as a means of profit. Handing out shopping bags, taking items from customers or offering similar items also relate to how the body is treated as individual parts for subtle coercion.

The object of control then offers us with the idea that employees must practice the movement efficiently and repeatedly. Through exercise, an employee knows how to approach customers, speak to them, and offer what the company is offering. These practices are perfected throughout the day and employers have a control over the bodies within its store. This control is evident when management continues to push for better customer service or even more amounts of interactions between customer and employee. This repetition is instilled within every employee, appearing automated when approaching guests.

Following the establishment of proper and correct movement and once repetition is present through exercise there must be unyielding control. Supervision is needed to ensure that this routine is institutionalized within the body. Therefore, management plays a major role in critiquing their employees on their actions. This enforces the already routinized movement and ensures all activity is done right. The docile body is then disciplined to act in accordance to company expectations, creating disciplinary power.

The panoptic power Foucault theorized allows for companies to create a self-policing behavior within employees through its use of the “mystery shopper.” As mentioned earlier, management is aware of when the shopper might be present (usually at the beginning of month) but not exactly whom this person might be. The mystery shopper reflects the symbol of a panopticon in that he or she is present among the masses, but does not reveal his or her power. This power is enclosing, meaning there are bounds in which the employee must stay within. A specific department or section of the store is an example of such, always expected to be present in that area where the mystery shopper might appear. This idea of the mystery shopper then regulates the movements among the employees to become more aware of their surroundings.  The employee does not know who this shopper is, depriving him or her of this knowledge and attending to every customer as if they might be the person critiquing their store. Due to their lack of knowledge on who this person is, the power this person has is also hidden. The once docile body is now able to perform in such a way that reflects the disciplinary power established by the company.  

Although an individual entering the work field may not necessarily be unaware of proper etiquette or selling critiques, it is through the disciplining of the individual company that the docile body is conditioned to perform and act in accordance to their expectations, for the repercussion may be warnings, write-ups, or even termination.  

<![CDATA[The Power of life and Death- Jeanette Richardson]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 13:26:05 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/the-power-of-life-and-death-jeanette-richardson             In Foucault’s piece on the History of Sexuality, he speaks of the right to decide life and death and how it turned into the right to expose an individual to death. He suggest that the motivation behind this has changed greatly over the years stating from early centuries of sovereign powers.  Now the shift has moved more towards the right to live because of the interest shift more in how people live. He describes this new emphasis as bio power, which is solely the switching of tactics and techniques to create docile bodies. One could argue that the topics discussed in the documentary It’s A Girl: Three deadliest words in the world tie in with Foucault’s theory. This documentary displays how sexuality is linked to how the individuals of Middle Eastern countries, China and Indian handle the power of life of girls born into these countries.

            This documentary explores the gendercide of the girl population in Middle Eastern, China, and India. The birth of girls in these countries are consider burdens to the families of these countries because they take away capital. To avoid dowries, Indian families often turn to killing, abandoning, drowning, and other harsh methods to rid the infant girl. The girl in an Indian caste system is valueless and brings more hardship then fortune. Because of the cost of an ultrasound, many people cannot afford to have a screen to see the sex. There was a woman in the documentary who detailed having 8 children, all of whom were girls, and killing each one fresh out of the womb. She said she had no type of regret because she as well as many other women of her the power to give give and take a life. And because this is part of the Indian Culture, no one objectifies.

In China, the annihilation of the girl population is similar, but it is enforced by China’s one child policy. This policy is put in place to help control its population. The only way you can keep a girl is if she is the first child born. If the first child is a boy, the girl is put up for adoption or aborted. As in the Indian culture, boys are also more valuable to society then girls. They label the girls of this culture with negative connotations such as thieves and burdens. With Chinese culture, the government controls the reproduction of girls. They do so by sterilizing women and raiding the houses of the suspected. The unwanted children of this country often end up in foster homes, trafficked, or put into child prostitution.

Foucault mentioned that bio power would be used to label this new type of power over life. He stated that there were two parts of this: the use of the body as a machine and the regulation of population. Both of which are present in this particular population. The way the bodies of the women in both countries are being used to produce. And the intended outcome of pregnancy was to procreate boys for economic growth. The second one is covered as a main topic about how the women and their families are in charge of regulating the population. The second part only applies to the individuals of the Chinese culture who has to regulate in order to obey the one child policy that exist because of the over population.

The importance of having a boy can be seen in these countries as a means to create capitalism. Most parents want son so they can collect dowries, have someone who can watch over them as they age and create more families. When a female is born, the family loses capital because of the process of the dowry. Foucault’s explanation of why we have shifted in regards to  how we decide life and death helps us to understand that the life is precious only in the name of what it produces. As with this countries, girls do not produce and take away more capital then they gain. In order to curb that, families annihilate and outcast them. Although morally wrong, the power to decide life and death can clearly been seen in the 21 century and is normalized across seas.

<![CDATA[Panopticism-Muslim Surveillance]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 07:12:58 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/panopticism-muslim-surveillanceYolanda Gallo

April 11, 2014

Soc. 385



            Foucault looked much into power, and its history. One of the things he looked into were disciplinary and regulatory power. Disciplinary power, as he explains it, is self-policing power, while regulatory power is the regulating of movement through a direct force. In other words, with disciplinary power, people internalize a power mechanism and start acting upon it, so in a way they become “disciplined,” without no direct force or control. However, regulatory power, is when an actual force or authority figure is actually enforcing its power to the people. An example of disciplinary power as Foucault provided was the concept of Panopticism. Panopticism is the use of a panopticon, which is a disciplinary mechanism that enforces obedience, but does not need regulatory power to exist. A panopticon encompasses three special characteristics. The first is that it must enclose, secondly it should deprive people of light, and thirdly it must hide its power. Along with these characteristics, this disciplinary mechanism has principles that entail that a panopticon is visible and unverifiable. Like Foucault mentioned, through his example of Bentham’s panopticon, which is a surveillance tower that is built in the middle of a prison space, that is visible to the inmates who are in cells surrounding the tower. However, they are not able to see inside the tower, so they don’t know when they are being watched, which makes it unverifiable. Therefore, these principles enforce the obedience of the inmates.

 The purpose of the panopticon then is to enforce obedience in a much efficient way because it “reduces the number of those who exercise it, while increasing the number on who it is exercised” (Foucault). Hence, there are various examples of panopticons that can be seen in today’s society, for its sole purpose of regulating people’s actions through disciplinary power. A prime example of a panopticon in today’s society is the surveillance of Muslim groups in the US.

            Ever since the 9/11 incident in New York, the US government began introducing security methods to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks. The surveillance of Muslim groups in the state of New York is one of these security practices. According to Sethi (2014), beginning September 11, 2001, the New York Police Department has been watching over Muslim communities through various means of tracking procedures, such as: community mappings, video surveillance, photography and anonymous informants. Thus, the purpose of this is to track down people from the Muslim community, who are affiliated with terrorist groups.   Nonetheless, the surveillance of this group, acts in a form of a panopticon because the surveillance of this group can be seen as enclosing the Muslim population because they are all being surrounded figuratively through the monitoring of their doings. Also, it is depriving them of the light and the NYPD is hiding its power because they are spying on them. They are not being open about it, as far as asking them personally if they are affiliated with terrorist groups. Instead, they are just being followed around.

            Although the Muslim community knows that they are being watched, they don’t know when it is that they are being watched. Which is just what the principles of a panopticon holds, that it should be visible and unverifiable. This is exactly what the NYDP surveillance of the Muslim community is doing because they are visible, or present in the sense that the Muslim population knows of their spying, but they don’t know if they are being watched all the time. Because of this, the Muslims are said to be living in fear because they are not being left alone. They think before wearing hijabs, having long beards, or attending religious-based services. Also, they don’t feel comfortable speaking Arab in public places (Sethi 2014). Thus, the insecurity the Muslims are feeling with the ways of expressing themselves and being the way they were used to being is the effect that a panopticon has on the people. A panopticon, has to enforce obedience through an “omnipresent and omniscient power” (Foucault). This “omniscient power” is doing exactly that because even though the Muslims weren’t doing anything wrong before they knew they were being tracked down, now that they are informed of such, it has changed their behavior and the ways they want to be perceived as in public spaces, by trying to detach anything that is linked to their Muslim culture.

            The panopticon as an example of disciplinary power is a way of enforcing obedience among the people without a direct force or control acting upon them. The surveillance of the Muslim community in New York is an example of this because through the relation of a panopticon’s characteristics and principles to this, it has shown an extent of its effectiveness.  


·         Foucault, Michel. Panopticism. Discipline and Punish.

·         Sethi, Arjun. 2014. Spying on Muslims is Legal? CNN. Retrieved April 10, 2014 http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/26/.

<![CDATA[Red Light, Green Light, Dynamite, Boom!  --Rachel St.clair]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 04:50:31 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/red-light-green-light-dynamite-boom-rachel-stclairWhen Foucault talks about the control of activity, he describes five main aspects of the rules to which time and activity are bound to each other: the time-table, the temporal elaboration of the act, the correlation of the body and the gesture, the body-object articulation, and exhaustive use. There are complex examples of these aspects but there is also one simple example that applies to these five aspects individually: a game called “Red light, green light, dynamite boom.”

            The way that this game is played is that one person is essentially in control of the game and all other players are trying to gain that position. To begin, the player in control faces one direction with his/her back to the rest of the players, who are standing at a decent distance (approximately 25 yards away). The person in control yells loud enough for all the players to hear “red light, green light, dynamite, boom!” In the time that this phrase is being yelled, the players run as fast as they can to try to reach the player in control. Once the player in control yells boom, he or she immediately turns around all of the chasers have to freeze and not show any sudden movements—if they do, they are “out” and no longer in the running to become the next person in control. The process continues until someone reaches the player in control and the game starts all over again.

            Foucault writes about one aspect of activity as having a time table. In this game, the players know that there is a certain time frame in which they have to reach the person in control. They know that right after the word “dynamite” is the word “boom” and that word is an indication that they have to immediately stop all movement. Foucault writes that time-tables generally have three methods “—establish rhythms, impose particular occupations, regulate the cycles of repetition—were soon to be found in schools, workshops and hospitals” (Foucault 149). Not only does this game have rhythm—the idea that “red light, green light, dynamite, boom” is repeated over and over, but that time frame doesn’t generally change. Even if the player says the phrase faster or slower, it generally has the same rhythm no matter what.

            The second aspect of the control of activity is temporal elaboration of the act. He writes “it is rather a collective and obligatory rhythm, imposed from the outside; it is a ‘programme’; it assures the elaboration of the act itself; it controls its development and its stages from the inside” (Foucault 152). In other words, the time is not determined by the players. The chasers in the game have no control over the amount of time that the player in control will say the phrase. They can say it as fast or as slow as they please and the chasers must abide by this rule or they will lose the game.

            “Everything must be called upon to form the support of the act required. A well-disciplined body forms the operational context of the slightest gesture” (152). In other words, body movement is directly related to time. In the game, it is a requirement to both be in action when the game requires it and to completely stop action when required. This is directly related to body-movement and time because if either one of these factors is out of sync (e.g. moving when the body is supposed to be idle or vice-versa), you are eliminated from the game.

            Breaking down the articulation of body versus object is the fourth aspect, and it is similar to body movement in relation to time, but not entirely the same. Foucault writes “It consists of a breakdown of the total gesture into two parallel series that of the parts of the body to be used (right hand, left hand, different fingers of the hand, knee, eye, elbow, etc.) and that of the parts of the object manipulated” (Foucault 153). When natural starting and stopping action, we tend to make the stopping action look as natural as possible. However in this game, the object is to convince the player in control that we are completely idle and sometimes that requires us to manipulate our movement in terms of convincing the player in control. In other words, the manipulation of our bodies has to be in sync with our movement, or we will fail to convince the player in control that we are fully idle.

            The final aspect of control of activity according to Foucault is non-idleness, or exhaustive use. He writes “it was the principle of non-idleness: it was forbidden to waste time, which was counted by God and paid for by men; the time-table was to eliminate the danger of wasting it- a moral offence and economic dishonesty” (Foucault 154). Although the minutes or seconds wasted is not a matter of life or death such as explained in the passage, it is a matter of winning or losing. The most important aspect of the game is to be the first person to reach the player in control. That means that you have to use as much time to be productive as you are given—you have to run as fast and as far as you can within the time-frame that the words “red light, green light, dynamite and boom” are said.

            The whole idea of activity and time is that they are essentially related and in five different aspects, as Foucault describes. The entire premise of “Red light, green light, dynamite, boom” is the relation between activity and time. If one of these aspects is flawed, you lose the game, similarly the actual relation between activity and time would not exist without these five aspects.


Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Pantheon Books.

<![CDATA[Foucault’s Sociological Theory in Star Trek: The Next Generation - Sarah Cook]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 04:28:20 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/foucaults-sociological-theory-in-star-trek-the-next-generation-sarah-cookSarah Cook

            Foucault’s sociological theory is based on the concept of power, as well as the uses and forms of power. He describes power as being used to influence knowledge and, consequently, discourse. Furthermore, Foucault lays out the formation of regulatory and disciplinary power. Regulatory power is used to regulate the movement, the space, and the time of populations through direct force. This form is visible, present, and is akin to domination. Disciplinary power, however, used to regulate the movement, the space, and the time of groups of people through indirect force. It is more concerned with maintaining an environment that influences the population to self-police themselves internally. This form of power creates a docile, easily controlled population. Disciplinary power, Foucault claims, is the evolutionary form of regulatory power.

            These aspects of Foucault’s sociological theory are present in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, a sci-fi television series that aired from 1987-1994. The series follows Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew aboard the starship Enterprise, exploring new worlds and civilizations in the universe (Star Trek: The Next Generation). An episode titled “Justice” contains many of the forms and characteristics of power. Jean-Luc Picard and his crew visit Edo, a friendly yet primitive planet, for shore leave. One of the crew, Wesley Crusher, accidentally breaks an Edo-an law while on the planet. Although it was a minor accident, the crew suddenly learns that on Edo the only punishment administered for any law broken is death. Jean-Luc has a meeting with some of the people of Edo and tries to explain that his people no longer use capital punishment. One of the people of Edo responds, saying, “…since you are advanced in other ways too, I suggest you use your superior powers to rescue the Wesley boy...” Captain Picard responds, “unfortunately, we have a law known as the Prime Directive’” (Roddenberry). This makes for a difficult situation because everyone aboard the Enterprise must obey the Prime Directive. It is a rule stating that Starfleet personnel can’t interfere with the development of alien civilizations and prohibits any crew from using advanced technology to impose their own beliefs on the developing civilization (Roddenberry). Although they have superior technology and can easily steal Wesley from under the Edo-ans, they adhere to the Prime Directive. This example speaks volumes to the disciplinary power of Starfleet. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, although desperately wanting to save Wesley, has internalized the Prime Directive learned at Starfleet Academy and is self-policing his actions because of it. Foucault describes disciplinary power as being internalized and self-policing.

            Another example of disciplinary power in this episode is the almost invisibility of Starfleet itself. Starfleet, the command that supervises The Enterprise, is never seen in this episode. No one from Starfleet is directly and presently monitoring how Jean-Luc handles this situation (Roddenberry). Even so, Jean-Luc follows protocol as if he were being directly monitored. Foucault states that a characteristic of disciplinary power is that it is not overtly visible or present – it doesn’t have to be.   

            Another example of the episode portraying elements of power is seen in the context of the situation. Because of the Prime Directive, the crew seems powerless to save Wesley. They are now at the mercy of the people of Edo (Roddenberry). The Enterprise can wield a lot of power in certain situations, however. At the beginning of the episode, Jean-Luc states in his “Captain’s Log” that they have just planted a human colony on an empty solar system nearby before taking their shore leave on Edo (Roddenberry). Being able to plant human colonies on other empty planets, essentially being able to foster life, is something very powerful. However, in the situation with Wesley, they are rendered helpless because of one simple rule. This, according to Foucault, is because different situations and contexts determine the kinds of power available.  

            On the other side of the spectrum, regulatory power/sovereign power is dominant form on the planet of Edo. They have visible and present forces of power that deal out who lives and dies. The civilization is less advanced, and so disciplinary power has yet to develop there. After Wesley accidentally fell into a restricted area, enforcers of the law appear and proceed to take a syringe full of poison out of their belt to inject Wesley (Roddenberry). These mediators, following the law passed down from their ancestors, decide outright who lives and who dies. They are always present and visible, meaning that the citizens aren’t following the law because they have internalized it, but because it is implemented by direct force.

            In conclusion, aspects of Foucault’s sociological theory are present in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard’s self-policing, Starfleet not being overtly visible or present, the situational nature of power in regards to the Enterprise crew, and the regulatory power implemented on Edo are all examples of the forms and characteristics of power.

Works Cited

Roddenberry, Gene. "Justice." Star Trek: The Next Generation. 7 Nov. 1987. Netflix.         Web. 10 Apr. 2014.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.             <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092455/>.

<![CDATA[Power and Spring Break]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 03:23:00 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/power-and-spring-breakBrindon Udomratanavasi

April 11, 2014

Sociology 385

Foucault Blog

Power and Spring Break

Its 2011, spring semester of my freshmen year at college. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, a few friends and I decided to do what every college student seems to do for spring break. Road trip. Not just any old road trip though, we were going to the mecca of spring break... Panama City Beach. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, but we were sure it was going to unforgettable. Regarding that last part, we couldn’t have been more wrong. We spent six days and five nights living the college dream. For breakfast we had beer bongs, lunch was typically more beer bongs, and we honestly didn’t see much of dinner. PCB was like an entirely different world. Things that would normally get you arrested were being done by massive crowds. It was as if all rules were thrown out the window. One week and one $300 drinking ticket later (most expensive 4loko in my life), and the only thing that really stayed with me was the conversation I had with a police officer. I had asked the police officer how many drinking tickets he gave out in a day. He said that things get so out of hand that Panama City P.D. usually has to call in police officers from the surrounding areas as backup. Really? College kids, more than likely all adults, get so extremely out of hand that major backup is required? I believe that this increase in police presence provides a good example for Foucault’s theory of power.

Foucault theorized two different forms of power: regulatory and disciplinary. Regulatory power involves direct force and control; think police herding people through the streets or arresting those who are too out of control. Disciplinary power is self-policing; think laying on the beach and not bonging beers and/or vomiting, out of fear or knowledge that there will be repercussions (Foucault). Regulatory power would theoretically evolve into disciplinary power. After enough force or physical threat, people sort of start to get the picture. They start behaving in accordance to the rules without having a presence there to enforce them. Foucault believed that society was evolving into a disciplinary, self-policing, state. Then how you do explain all the shenanigans of college spring break? 

I have provided two video links below. Please excuse the FoxNews and Hannity. The first is a segment done on spring break at PCB. The first interview pretty much sums it up, “We’re here to get f**ked up!”(Fox News). The reporter continues to ask random people, and continues to get essentially the same response. The second video, around the 2:15 minute mark, has Hannity asking the police chief how he deals with the influx of raging college students. He mentions that he calls in police officers from four different police forces.(Fox News) I believe this is displays a shift in power, made necessary by the breakdown of behavioral norms. 

The increase in police presence that the police chief mentioned is a shift to regulatory power. They are creating visible and apparent force. In theory, you’re less likely to commit a crime if you’re in front of a police officer. They create a larger physical presence to dominate the crowds of spring breakers. For there to be power, there has to be subjugation. Therefore the spring breakers, or the subjugated, experience a shift as well. They go from self-policing bodies at home or else where, to mobs and herds being corralled by police. In a way, there actions cause them to lose the ability to experience disciplinary power. By blatantly ignoring the law and choosing not to self-police, they  require the shift back to  regulatory power once more. 

Foucault believed that society was evolving towards disciplinary power. I couldn’t agree more, but Spring Break and the mad house that is Panama City Beach show otherwise. There is a blatant disregard for the law. People who are presumably otherwise normal “upstanding” citizens become drunken train wrecks. This shift in behavior rightfully calls for a shift in power as well. Those in power have to ensure that the system is maintained, and order is kept. I believe this is a temporary shift, but the lengthy period of time that this involves raises many other questions. Do the policing tactics change as well? Also, would you see this shift in other holidays or festivals? Food for though. 

Please excuse the Hannity and FoxNews (NSFW) 

Fox News: Spring Break http://video.foxnews.com/v/3416128170001/a-shocking-look-at-spring-break-2014-/#sp=show-clips

Fox News: Police Chief interview http://video.foxnews.com/v/3432366204001/spring-break-exposed-panama-city-beach-officials-respond/#sp=show-clips

Foucault, Michel. [1975] 1995. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage. Selections: “Docile Bodies” (135-169); “Panopticism” (195-228).

<![CDATA[the eyes and ears you don't see- Melissa gonzalez]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 03:18:50 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/the-eyes-and-ears-you-dont-see-melissa-gonzalezMichael Foucault is a French theorist who wrote about discipline and punishment. He analyzed how the form of discipline and how the structure of power are important to create control. He examines how Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon structure was used in prison is now used in modern day institutions like schools, hospitals and in the workplace. The panopticon is a structure in prisons; it’s a circular room with a permanent tower that sits in the middle that allows the guards to observe the inmates. This structure then imposes self-policing since the inmates are not able to verify when the guards are observing them. Foucault propose three functions for Panopticon: 1) enclose 2) deprive people of light (knowledge) 3) hide. I will apply these three functions to show how call centers use this method when monitoring their employees. At the very end I will briefly compare the distribution of bodies in space and time between prisons and call centers.

            Call centers are facilities that handle large numbers of customer telephone requests for a business or organization. A call agent or customer service representative helps assist with the customers’ questions and concerns. While assisting the customers, all calls are recorded to ensure that the customers’ needs and concerns are being met. Customer service representative receive a variety of calls, often from angry customers which can become stressful. However, representatives know if they lose their cool, they are likely to get caught because all calls are recorded and all calls are randomly heard by their supervisors or their quality assurance department.

            Moreover, Foucaults’ theory of Panopticonism which includes three functions for prisons and social institutions.  The first function “enclose” refers to the space or structure of the room such as the cells lined up a in a circular structure which allows the guards to observe in all angles. In call centers the space is also enclosed which are cubicles where customer service representatives perform their job duties. The cubicles usually have supervisor at the head of the cubicles islands which also allows supervisors to observe. The second function Foucault mentions is “deprive of light (knowledge)” in prisons this is played out by having a permanent tower which guards can observed at any given time from all angles, but does not allow the inmates to view them. In this situation inmates start to act as if they are being watched. In call centers the customer service representatives know that all calls are recorded, but they do not know if the supervisor or an employee from the quality assurance department are listening to calls as they are taking place and /or perhaps randomly picked. Foucault’s third function is “hide” which refers to the power behind the tower is hidden. People will internalize the power, for example since inmates know that at any given time they are being watched they will then start to behave as if they are. Inmates will internalize the power by self-policing which is a form of discipline. In regards to the call centers the customer service representatives will try to perform or answer all the customers’ questions and concerns to the best of their ability as if someone was listening.

            In addition to space I want to emphasize how the space in call centers mirrors prisons. In a prison the cell space is very limited as well in the cubicles in a call center.  Inmates are not allowed out of their cell (space) with permission of a guard. In the same way inmates aren’t allowed to leave their cells (space) unless informing a guard, a customer service representative needs to inform their supervisors by punching in and out for breaks or by using codes on their telephones to notify the supervisors of their whereabouts.   In both settings the space dictates the behavior. As for the time, in prisons inmates work on a restricted schedule as well as in call centers customer service representatives. All movements are monitored in both setting from when they take their lunch to when and how long they have been out their cell or cubicles.

Ultimately, Foucault argument about Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon structure is clearly visible in how it’s used in modern day institutions such as schools, hospitals and in the workplace. His three functions: enclose, deprive of light (knowledge) and hide helps support his argument into today’s surveillance. I have demonstrated how a workplace like a call centers monitors a customer service representative in a similar way that inmates are monitored in prisons.  The whole point of the panopticon is to be able to observe the whole space with less observers (guards and supervisors). The power is fully in effect in these institutions when the people self-police without even realizing. This form of discipline only gives the guards and supervisors more control of their space.

Work cited

"Discipline and Punish, Panopticism." Michel Foucault, Info. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2014.

<![CDATA[Panoptic government]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 02:11:30 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/panoptic-government Shah’Tavia Young


Soc 385

Focault Blog


Pan-Optic Government



            According to sociologist Michel Focault, panopticism is the process of power and observation, it is another aspect of discipline. There are two functions of this design: to make the subject viewable and the observer’s unsustainable. The idea of panopticism are covered in the domain of discipline and punish. The study of surveillance begins with Focault’s reading of the ways that surveillance plays a vital role in establishing social control and power over both the social body and individual. The most famous pan-optic design is that of the prison. In which there is a central tower, with one or two guards stationed at the top and the inmate’s cells surrounding them in a circle. Allowing the most amount of surveillance with minimum guards. Pan-optic power is not only enforced in prisons but, in everyday society as well. The government is able to watch our every move if warranted. Whether it be through corner cameras, police officers, listening to phone conversations or monitoring social sites. Pan-optic power is the process of social regulation and organizations.

            Furthermore, society would not be able to function without some sort of regulation and control. People take discipline and our society that controls us for granted. We are protected by those imaginary eyes that stop us from checking for danger. The governments constant observations of us, enforces rules without actually having to say anything. The U.S. government embraces the theory of panopticism as it takes away our rights and privacy. However, the American people are aware of the numerous ways the government use to watch our lives. People find it best to operate in panopticism is simply by trying to self-control. We control our lives by letting others watch us. The importance of the panoptic design for Foucault, was that it reflected much of the philosophy of observation that has become a guiding principle of policing in the modern state. The use of video cameras both in cities and on roads employs the same principle of observation, so that the citizen is never entirely sure whether or not they are being watched

Actual policing by officers of the law is a way that panopticism can be seen. Police are known to be everywhere, sometimes you see them and often times you don’t. However, for the fear of getting arrested or getting tickets, many people self-police by making sure they do not go over the speed limits posted, simple traffic laws and various other things. The reality TV show Bait Car shows people given the opportunity to steal cars without the obvious chance of being caught. Often time’s people try to take the cars and often times others do not. This is an example of the observer (police) being unverifiable and the individual being viewable.  Also, on social networks and sites, people do not post or engage in certain illegal; activity because they know the government has access to things. The knowledge of knowing one is being watched, self-control comes into play, in fear of the consequences that can happen, even when one is not being blatantly watched, they know there is still a chance of being seen. Self-regulation is events that examines and encourages the people to adapt and adjust themselves with the changes occurring in their surroundings. Therefore, the panopticism also forces the people for the self-regulation and panopticism acts as metaphor for this kind of power

In modern day society panopticism can be found in nearly any institution. Panopticism has been existing in our society without any dispute. In fact, panopticism may not be such a bad thing. According to Focault, society needs to have some control and this may be true. Panopticism is an example of disciplinary power, used to enforce others. Without it, society could be a grave danger to itself and the individual.


<![CDATA[Carlos Hidalgo-Power and a Utopian Society]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 00:38:43 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/carlos-hidalgo-power-and-a-utopian-society
            Power when typically thought of, is thought and related to with punishment. Power is typically thought to be held only by a select few and is associated by the people who hold it. What come to mind when I think of power, for instance, are political and military leaders. Some of these political leaders include people such as Napoleon, Washington, King Arthur and even Hitler. My understanding of power stems from long implemented History classes and Hollywood depicting these men to be the ones who hold the “power”. But is this really the only/absolute form of power? The French philosopher and sociologist Michel Foucault believed that power was a means for production, a means to berth life, and eventually means to acquire knowledge to achieve discourse. Foucault states that bio-power is, “the power to foster or disallow life…the administration of bodies and the calculated management of life” (Foucault 1976).This theory Michel Foucault presents is called bio-power and is radically different then the one I was taught growing up.

Sovereign power (indirect/direct) is the one most of my generation grew up knowing. Foucault states that sovereign power is, “the power of life and death…[the exerciser has the] right of life only by exercising his right to kill” or not to (Foucault 1976). This notion exemplifies that sovereign power is in some way visible and related to monarchies, dictatorships, and other ancient form of government. For example in a monarchy you have a king, this king has sovereign power over his people and state. This “regulatory” power is very direct because the power has a clear enforcer (the king) and the clear consequences of life or death. This power could also be indirect by nearly showing and letting others know death is out there. In my first video clip (refer to 1a), from Alice and Wonderland, it shows the queen of wonderland exercising her absolute, direct sovereign force. In this clip she is dissatisfied because someone stole her tarts. So like any mythical and sometimes historical evil queen/king, she decided to behead the frog servant. Foucault would say that the way she deals with this situation, by cutting the frogs head off is a very direct and sovereign way to exercise power. An example of indirect power, where the “people” are exposed to death rather than it being their punishment, is found in this Braveheart movie clip. In the very begging we see the leader of the English army command his Calvary to fully exercise his indirect sovereign power. Both of these powers, direct and indirect, are deductive and show destruction rather than what Foucault would say the true nature of power should be.

Foucault believed that power was not meant to be understood or be exercised in a destructive way but rather by productive means. Bio-power is the ideal use and nature of power. Bio-power is productive and promotes life, opposed to sovereign powers destructive nature. An example I came up with is imagining the perfect utopia. While a utopia would be an extreme way of looking at bio-power, it follows easily. If everyone did his or her part, policed themselves, and consciously choose to do so we would have an utopia. This utopia would foster life and have the ability to control all of humanity. This idea that people could self police and be easily managed/controlled is the way one could look at bio-power being exercised. This disciplinary use of power is very prominent in the society we live in today. It is prominent because we can see it, small as it may be, everyday. Everyday we see people following laws without there being an enforcer, we see power mechanisms being internalized. This form or power is instrumental in population control and keeping peace.

            The use and understanding of power can greatly influence the way of life we live in. For a more “North Korean” way of life one might be comfortable accepting sovereign power to govern them. But for an, ideal anyway, “American” way of life one might see bio-power as an acceptable force. It is important to distinguish these two because I, like Foucault, believe that power can be used for the greater good of humanity. Power can be used to unify and help foster life. With bio-power we would be able to be as close as possible to a realistic world peace. I believe this because with bio-power beliefs come disciplinary actions. After the notion of bio-power is taught and accepted people would be compelled to foster life, be self-policing, and then could easily be supervised or controlled if need be.


Foucault, Michel. 1976. The History of Sexuality. New York: A Division of Random

House INC.

Disney UK. (2010, February 23). Alice in Wonderland [Video File] Retrieved from


EpicWarScenes. (2011, March 5). Braveheart [Video File] Retreived from   


Link Referrals:

Alice in Wonderland

1a: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENDLDgje0Wc


1b: http://youtu.be/rdlL65LD6I4

<![CDATA[Megan Wallace "The World of Power" ]]>Sat, 12 Apr 2014 00:21:44 GMThttp://uicsocialtheory.weebly.com/foucault/megan-wallace-the-world-of-power Foucault was a French philosopher who strongly believed that power is formed within society. In the study of power, Foucault expressed that power is self-producing, situational, and can be directed in rules. Foucault discussed the main two powers which were Regulatory Power and Disciplinary Power in which they both determine how a person should be punished. As for Regulatory Power it consists of regulating the space and time of people through direct object, force, and control. Regulatory Power is considered as a form of direct or physical abuse such as violence. As for Disciplinary Power it is a self-policing power that becomes institutionalized such as the distribution of bodies in space and time. Foucault also included the distribution and space and time which were Enclosure; the specific or designated space, Partitioning in space; the role of having multiple spaces for the individuals to make it for supervision, useful; you can be viewed individually, and the fact that elements in the space are interchangeable and the elements are defined by the space itself. In today’s society a person who is considered to have power is most likely a person with capital or a higher ranking than others, or one who has a hierarchical classification status.

When I think Foucault intake on power I think of disciplinary power, and I think of how schools systems institutionally operate and how much of an effect it may have on children and how they end up viewing society. In school systems there are certain ways children may be disciplined other than using a direct force. As a child, one has to know the understanding of how to act, what to do, and what not to do in order not to be penalized for their wrong-doings. However, by these schools being institutionalized they may use methods such as excessive writing for a certain amount of time, being put in time-out, and also being excluded from extracurricular activities such as field trips or recess. Being that this method may be used within time, they would then know the concept of self-policing and knowing what they have done wrong and having that conscious of guilt before acting out negatively or doing something that one can get in trouble for. As far as using regulatory power, I highly believe that method would cause chaos and controversy amongst parents and the entire school system. As for the distribution of time and space, schools are considered the designated spaces, and the methods they use in the class room (classroom set-up, single-file lines, lunch and recess with that same class) are all forms of required partitioning space to where one can be easily viewed individually. The teachers have the power to run the classroom in their own form of fashion depicted some sort of power and by them being adults already puts them at an advantage to have hierarchical power.       

A form of Regulatory Power I would consider the law enforcements, because they often times enforce the form of discipline through direct force. Their usage of direct force may be considered a bit demanding and being that they are socially ranked because of their authority, however, although they are known for abusing their authority, they are still known for having hierarchical power in society. A lot of law enforcement, police in particular, is known for using physical violence towards the defendant for their race, age, or one’s social classification throughout society. An example would be an incident that occurred in North County San Diego where an innocent man was brutally beaten and pepper sprayed mistakenly.  A man by the name of Francisco was beaten because he held his hoody over his head and the cops thought as if he was trying to hide his identity from them.  News reporters included that Francisco suffered from Down syndrome, and he felt frightened for his life. In this case the offender was completely innocent and terrified because he was unable to defend himself. Incidents in these cases happen all the time mainly because of the when it comes to the law enforcement; people feel a sense of hierarchal power.

Overall, in today’s society a person who is considered to have power is most likely someone with capital or who has a hierarchical status. Foucault’s study of power, in which he believes, is based off of a person hierarchical classification status or the knowledge one may have in order to gain that power. I used disciplinary power in order to introduce how the notion of power is based institutionalized originations such as schools systems and how their operations and methods of using discipline can reflects off of a child to gain that consciousness of guilt or knowing right from wrong.  I also reflect on how the distribution of acts socially ties to the theory of knowledge and how it also ties to the example of schools. As for regulatory power it refers to hierarchical power, in which I used law enforcement and how they are known for having power, but some choose to abuse their authorities because of their ranking and the knowing that they will not be penalized for their actions makes it easier for them to act forcibly towards others . Foucault’s theory of power socially ties to institutions such as the government, schools, prisons, and concentration camps, but focuses on people or institutions that a systematically run these social organizations in a form of disciplinary and punishment.


Works Cited


Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and Punishment” The Birth of Prison. A Division of Random House Inc. New York. Pg. 1-37.

Foucault, Michel. “The History of Sexuality” pg. 1-13