Is the real purpose of the panopticon to keep us working?

This Is Not a Sociology Blog

By coincidence I recently came across the same piece of information from two different sources within a few hours which changed the way I thought about a concept with which I thought I was pretty familiar. Jeremy Bentham’spanopticon.


Jeremy Bentham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The panopticon was an, unrealised, prison designed in such a way that the prisoners are kept in cells around the edges of a circle with a guard’s tower in the centre. This design would enable the guard to easily see into any of the cells but crucially the prisoners would never know if they were being watched so would have to act as if they were all the time. The panopticon, largely through its analysis by Michel Foucault, has come to be considered as emblematic of surveillance and disciplinary societies in general.

In David Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5000 Yearsand…

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