Foucault – The Means of Correct Training and Panopticism

The introduction of discipline, then surveillance, and then the examination as sources of power came about through changes so small they were, at the time, not worth mentioning, but they changed society at the foundation by introducing self-regulation of the smallest behavior. The goal of discipline was to get the individual to control every movement and desire. In the Middle Ages, prior to discipline, the fear instilled by the Sovereign was sufficient to control the people. As populations grew society needed something more efficient. Minor changes in the direction of discipline and scheduling to the military, education, health, the penal system, governing, and other institutions caused the population to regulate itself. Surveillance, through open architecture, allowed discipline to operate with greater efficiency. The always watching eye made the individual aware of the fact that if they did not self-regulate it was likely that they would be caught. The examination took surveillance to its furthest reaches, established a normal, and articulated the difference between the individual and the normal, labeling him or her as “obese” or “a D student,” etc… The examination is universal, so one can compare oneself with everyone else. The punishment for deviation from the normal is universal.

With the examination came documentation, creating new fields of knowledge known as the human sciences. Foucault asks what the examination and the human sciences have done to the development of one raised with them, just as the human sciences have asked what being raised by wolves does to one raised with them. The human sciences could not have been possible without the technology and affordability of writing. The human sciences created fields of knowledge concerning definition and trends of the larger population and the categorization of the individual in contrast with his or her peers. Prior to the end of the 18th century scientists were concerned with the species. Afterwards it became reasonable to analyze the individual, and consequently the individual became a target of power.

The need for the technology of discipline, surveillance, and the examination came from the problems of maintaining peace as populations transitioned from the country to the city to work in factories and live in congested housing. This had implications on the military, education, health, punishment, governing, etc… It achieves this by making sure all of society is hierarchical. In order to control the multiplicity of society it uses the multiplicity against itself. In this way discipline must be the counter-law. With the industrial revolution came an egalitarian legal system in which everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, but the egalitarian legal system was and is only possible through anti-egalitarian forces inherent in discipline. Discipline and surveillance make it possible to allow individuals to retain their sense of liberty, while making sure their behavior continues to be conducive to the stability of society.

And thus, “Power creates!” Foucault uses this opportunity to supply an example where power creates the self as defined by discipline, the examination, and eventually the human sciences. Power creates the fiction of the work contract, in which one agrees that one will sell one’s labor/time to one’s “equal.” Knowledge and Power have created what we accept as reality.


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