Tag Archives: Panopticon

The Theory of Surveillance: The Panopticon and the Stainless Steel Rat

As we residents of Massachusetts gambol heedlessly downward from the Mountains of Liberty toward the Swamps of Oppression, let’s take a brief breather to consider a more general commentary on surveillance.

Philosophical examinations of governmental surveillance powers center on eighteenth-century founder of utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham and twentieth-century philosopher Michel Foucault. The key concept used to inform their thinking is Bentham’s notion of the Panopticon:

The Panopticon: the ideal prison

According to Bentham, the ideal prison

The Panopticon was a prison with the cells in the outside circle and the guard tower in the center. Each prisoner was, at all times, perfectly visible to the guards. The guards were invisible to the prisoners, so prisoners had to assume that they were being permanently watched.

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