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Panopticism Conception by French Philosopher Michel Foucault Term Paper

Table of Contents The effect of panopticism

Darkness and light of panopticism

The transparency of action created by panopticism

Grades, discipline, and panopticism

Tenure, discipline, and panopticism

Evaluations, discipline, and panopticism


Works Cited

Panopticism is a concept developed by French philosopher Michel Foucault to illustrate how constant observation can enhance discipline and efficiency in institutions. Foucault developed the panopticism concept based on Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon theory, which stated that designing central surveillance towers in prisons would enhance discipline in the corrective institutions.

According to (Foucault 201), panopticism induces “a state of conscious and permanent visibility” in people, hence making them aware of higher power that they must obey. Such awareness makes people more cautious, and more willing to abide by set rules or laws. Consequently, the society becomes orderly and regimented with only a few people going against set societal rules.

The effect of panopticism Throughout his writing, Foucault uses the panopticism concept as a metaphor for discipline in societies. Specifically, he uses Bentham’s panopticon theory to advance the notion that “power should be visible and unverifiable” (Foucault 201). Foucault gives the impression that seeing goes beyond the physical aspect of sight.

He states that power visibility should be ingrained in a person’s mind, in a manner that creates awareness of a higher observing power. To enforce the unverifiable aspect of power, (Foucault 201) suggests the ‘spies’ should never make their presence obvious to the subjects of their observations. However, the observed must always know that they are under someone’s gaze. Simply put, the spy must do his work discreetly without his subjects becoming aware of his presence.

As a mechanism of power, panopticism has a mysterious and startling effect on people. For starters, (Foucault 202) notes that panapticon “automatizes and disindividualizes power.” As such, the subject of power becomes anxious and more aware that someone could be watching and waiting to impose corrective measures on him or her for wrongful behavior.

Based on the anxiety and awareness created by the all-seeing eye, individuals internalize the concept of power by becoming aware of its invisibility, tact, and plurality. This maintains discipline in the society, since people adopt self-policing actions as a measure of avoiding the consequences of non-abidance from the observer.

Darkness and light of panopticism Citing Bentham (Foucault 202) observes that panoptic institutions are surprisingly light. Quoting some of the examples given by Bentham, Foucault observes that, “there were no more bars, no more chains, no more heavy locks…[in the panoptic institutions].” This observation suggests that the relaxation of physical security measures gave rise to the constraining force of an unseen power.

Get your 100% original paper on any topic done in as little as 3 hours Learn More In Bentham’s views, the constraining force was limited to the panoptic institutions. As such, the effect that panopticism had in arresting evil and breaking communication could only be felt within the panoptic institutions. In Foucault’s views however the full lighting used in panoptic institutions was a “visibility trap” that is replicated in the larger society in order to enforce discipline (Foucault 200).

The dark nature of panopticism is evident through Foucault’s observation that individuals in panoptic institutions are confined into cells where they are visible to the supervisors, but they do not have the liberty to see other people.

More specifically, Foucault observes that such an individual becomes the object and source of information for the observer, yet he or she is not allowed to become a subject in the communication. This ensures that the person under observation is disassociated from the collective mass of people, hence becoming a separate individual who is sequestered and observed in solitude.

The transparency of action created by panopticism According to (Foucault 215) “Discipline ‘makes’ individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise.” Foucault examines how the panoptical theory is executed in institutions such as hospitals, schools, and prison, and concludes that panopticism enhances efficacy and regulations in such environments.

The use of due dates, timetables and exams further construct and advance the discipline aspect in people by ensuring that a person does what is expected of him or her by those in higher positions of power.

Foucault observes that although power is evident in law and in its raw physical form, it can also be seen in political technologies and norms. In the prison example he uses, Foucault (201) argues that an inmate who believes that someone could be watching him or her at all times alters his or her behaviors accordingly.

Specifically, the writer states, “he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection” (Foucault 202).

We will write a custom Term Paper on Panopticism Conception by French Philosopher Michel Foucault specifically for you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More With panopticism, the subject of observation takes up desirable behavior, since he believes that he will be examined or judged based on his actions. Being the subject of visibility (and not knowing if the observer is watching or not) becomes a way of life for people in panoptic settings. Such lifestyles persist even when the surveillance stop, thus reinforcing a disciplinary system.

The discipline created by panopticism supports Foucault’s notion that making people believe that they are being watched makes controlling them easier. Once people are convinced that an invisible power is watching them, they willingly alter their behaviors in order to conduct themselves in a manner expected of them.

It is (Foucault’s 219) assertion that “discipline fixes; it regulates or arrests movement; it clears up confusion; it dissipates compact grouping of individuals wandering about the country in predictable ways; it establishes calculate distributions” that capture the entire magnitude of the discipline effect created by panopticism.

Grades, discipline, and panopticism Judging by Foucault’s writings, grades fit in the discipline criteria as well as in the panopticism concept. Grades are awarded based on how well a person performs in a given subject area. In some cases, a person is graded depending on how he or she compares to others. This means that grades are set on concrete applications, founded in the education system.

One can argue that the need to earn good grades indirectly ensure that students maintain discipline in their courses. Grades also fit in the panopticism concept based on the argument that they are earned within an educational institution or setup. A student, who fails to attend school or access knowledge from relevant sources, would surely have bad grades when examined. Besides, (Foucault 204) states that the panopticon also functions like some kind of power laboratory, where “knowledge follows the advances of power.”

Tenure, discipline, and panopticism As the grades discussed above, tenure is not a physical place. However, the same concrete applications applicable in grades apply to tenure too. To execute the terms of tenure however, one would need an inherent sense of discipline, which according to Foucault could be born from taking on the task of self-supervision.

Tenure fits in the panopticism theory since executing the ‘terms of tenure’ requires one to work within set policies set by the employer. Moreover, the tenure holder would want to execute everything as directed by his or her employers in order to attain set goals, and to please the panoptic observer. Specifically, (Foucault 206) notes that the panoptic schema has a preventative character that assures economy and efficacy in personnel.

Evaluations, discipline, and panopticism Like grades and tenure above, evaluations too qualify as a discipline, in addition to being applicable to the panopticism theory. They fit in the disciplines criteria based on the fact that people who would otherwise ignore knowledge strive to concentrate and gain as much of it as they possibly can, based on their awareness that evaluations will be used to test their understanding on a subject.

Not sure if you can write a paper on Panopticism Conception by French Philosopher Michel Foucault by yourself? We can help you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More Failing an evaluation may deny a person better prospects in future, and it is this knowledge that instills discipline in people. Evaluations also fit in the panopticism concept because they represent a scientific method through which social engineering can be attained. Aptly put, by evaluating people, appraisers determine who is fit and competent enough for specific positions in the society.

Reading Foucault’s views gives one the impression that running from the ‘all-seeing eye’ in the contemporary society is a near impossible task. Specifically Foucault observes that panopticism has multiplied itself since those who have been molded under its gaze have moved on to mould others. As such, people have learned not only to watch others for conformity with laid down rules, but also themselves.

This means that the world is a more disciplined place than would be the case if the panoptic schema were not in place. It is also undeniable that the modern man is under the ‘constant’ gaze more than he would care to admit.

New electronic technologies have specifically exposed the contemporary person to more surveillance, with or without his knowledge. Admittedly, today’s panoptic living has beneficial and disadvantageous consequences. Government’s surveillance on its citizens is for example necessary for security reasons. However, it goes against the citizens’ rights to privacy.

Conclusion When used for the ‘greater good’ of the society, panopticism is a marvelous machine that instills discipline in people, and makes the society a more calmer, fruitful, and rewarding place. True to Foucault’s observations, the modern culture is capitalistic, individualized, and disciplined. This makes it comparable to earlier cultures where people operated in a unified manner and thus used observation to serve in internalizing shared beliefs and values.

Due to the competition, broken communication and disharmony created by the individualized, capitalistic modern society, stabilizing features such as schools, hospitals, prisons and other collective institutions have been put in place. They are the modern day embodiment of the panopticon, which has been defined by Foucault. Even where no one else is watching, people in the modern culture strive to be their own observers in order to establish a social identity or survive both physically and emotionally.

The phrase ‘winners never quit’ is just one example of how panopticism has spread the discipline agenda among masses in a manner that present success as the ultimate goal in life. Attaining the most valued assets, values, and rewards in the modern culture is therefore arguably a result of the marvelous machine of panopticism.

Works Cited Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish the Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books, 1977. Print.

Nineteenth Century Art and Architecture Essay

Nursing Assignment Help Table of Contents Introduction

Nicolas Poussin “The Crucifixion”

The Movement that Influenced Poussin’s Paintings

“The Crucifixion” and other Paintings of Romantic Movement




Introduction Painting is considered by many as a realm that does speak first to the eye and thereafter captivates every part of the soul. Usually, formal interest is followed in the viewer’s mind as the meaning of the piece of artwork unfolds. Other interests also come in tandem with whatever one attaches to the piece. It must be mentioned that any artistic work is derived from other arts or perhaps from other mundane fields.

Nevertheless, any such work may be fraught with symbolism, story-telling or may contain discursive achievements stemming from philosophy that contribute to the image one can abstract from it. “The Crucifixion” that was painted by Nicolas Poussin, the French artist, is an image that reflects the thinking pattern of the period and a radical rebellion to rationalism and classicism that pervaded the psyche of the 18th century Europeans.

The painting also reflects the degree of enigma that the artist attached to the historical episode that he endeavored to reproduce in the form of art. The paper discusses Poussin’s painting “The Crucifixion” as portrayed in Montreal Museum of Fine Arts vis-à-vis other paintings influenced by romantic art movement.

Nicolas Poussin “The Crucifixion” Nicolas Poussin is considered one of France’s gifted sons in the field of painting. He was an instrumental figure during the establishment of classical style in French painting as a style whose distinguishing features were the rational order and stability.

Therefore, Poussin’s artwork depicts elevated and learned themes with higher degree of formalism and painstaking evocation of the antique. Moreover, his paintings demonstrated order, accuracy clarity, discipline ambition, amplitude, certitude and severity. Poussin learnt this style of art in Rome where he travelled at the age of thirty and ended up living there for the rest of his life.

His painting of “The Crucifixion” can be categorized under the works of fine art done in the nineteenth century. The masterpiece is conspicuous among its contemporaries in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts given the unique skills and materials that the artist used to produce it.

In this piece of work, Poussin in his characteristic style of artistry endeavors to transmedialize the scriptural narrative into a visual picturesque produced by the composition of color and lines. In the painting, Poussin shows the crucifixion of Christ in a Tuscan landscape with characters in the traditional Italian attire. He makes the scene appear as real as possible by placing it in a contemporary setting.[1]

Get your 100% original paper on any topic done in as little as 3 hours Learn More The main focus of Poussin was the presentation of historically accurate images of sacred scenes. Looking at the picture from the left margin one notices an emotional stranger, who is somehow sequestered from the remaining images observing the scene.

Perhaps he may have been one of the Jews mentioned in one of the gospels (John 19:20) as hailing from nearby town having come to read the trilingual inscription on Jesus’ cross.[2] This anonymous bystander could have been used by the artist as a representation of the viewer, given the emotional turmoil that the painting stirs. The figure below shows Poussin’s “The Crucifixion” adopted from Artsunlight.[3]

The Movement that Influenced Poussin’s Paintings Poussin was greatly influenced by the various philosophical movements of the time that shaped the outcome of his numerous artworks. At the time of “The Crucifixion” painting, romanticism was the philosophy that shaped people’s psyches including Poussin’s. However, movements of art such as rococo, naturalism, and realism existed side by side with romanticism for they explicated a common technique. For this reason, they were presented as a common denominator that was underlying the artistic work of the time.

It suffices to say, therefore, that all these movements played a role, however insignificant, in Poussin’s artistic work. Similarly, realism and naturalism, aside from being constructs of political and social structures at the time, influenced the paintings of this period, which were categorized under “subjects”.

Artists who adhered to rococo techniques, on the other hand, used delicate colors and curving forms and beautifully decorated their canvases with cherubs and myths of love. Additionally, portraiture was a popular phenomenon with rococo arts.

The extent to which romanticism as a movement influenced “The Crucifixion” is embedded in the salient features that characterized it. Romanticism began in the late eighteenth century to mid nineteenth century. It was an artistic and intellectual movement that stressed radicalism against the established social and religious structures.

As such, the movement hailed subjectivism, individualism, imagination, subjectivism, emotions, as well as nature. Artists who subscribed to this movement adored nature, their clairvoyance, passions and inner struggles, among inclinations. These artists explored human nature, folk culture, the medieval era, the mysterious, and even the diabolic.[4]

We will write a custom Essay on Nineteenth Century Art and Architecture specifically for you! Get your first paper with 15% OFF Learn More “The Crucifixion” is evidently an expression of Romantic Movement given the imagery that it conjures up in a spectator. From the painting, one can see how Poussin presents the emotional experience of those aggrieved following Christ’s crucifixion such as Mary Magdalene, Mary his mother, the disciple whom he loved, and a host of bystanders who must have been thrilled by the occurrence.

The inclusion of the two thugs who were crucified with Jesus in the piece of artwork depicts the artist’s exploration of the human nature that subjectively reflects his feelings for the victims.

Furthermore, the figure of a lone bystander has been used perhaps by the artist to enable the viewer to contemplate his or her conception of the scenario. To this extent, therefore, it can be said that the painting of Nicolas Poussin was influenced by romanticism. “The Crucifixion” merits being categorized as one of the artworks of this movement given that it bears the features that resonate with the styles of similar works.

It is worthy of mentioning that Poussin’s painting “The Crucifixion” was also influenced by the works of a renowned renaissance artist who lived between 1483 and 1520 in Italy called Raffaelo Sanzio.

The painter did admire his mentor, Raffaelo, for his characteristic classical forms and balanced compositions that were in perfect harmony consequently divorced of the cacophonous emotions of the contemporary painting. As a matter of fact, artworks such as Raphael’s School of Athens was of particular influence to the artist. Poussin actually struggled to copy this skill by returning to the piece over and over again as an inspiration for the complex and multi-figure compositions.[5]

The influence of Raphael on Poussin work was indeed great. The indication of this was reflected in the artist’s 1633 painting with his historical and/or biblical subjects, not to mention “The Crucifixion”.

In “The Shepherds of Arcadia” painting for instance, he invites viewers to contemplate the world. The painting’s main motif is “the comforting gesture of the woman who is placing her hand on the shoulder of the young shepherd. The central theme in Poussin’s work is effectively humanism”[6]. Just as Raphael did, Poussin invites the view to meditate on the painting.

Poussin became the most respected artists in Roman artistic society. However, the classicism that formed the skeleton of his art contrasted to the excitement and vivacity of Baroque.

Not sure if you can write a paper on Nineteenth Century Art and Architecture by yourself? We can help you for only $16.05 $11/page Learn More This artistic movement that occurred in the dusk of seventeenth century and the dawn of eighteenth century was distinguished by freedom of forms, the hunger for movement, the abundance of ornamentation, and finally, the growth of passion. It is worthy of noting at this point that the founding of Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture[7] broadened the span of influence of Poussin to subsequent generations.

“The Crucifixion” and other Paintings of Romantic Movement The most defining feature in “The Crucifixion” painting by Poussin is its landscape layout besides other characteristics. Landscape painting was common in romantic artworks where focus was on nature and its immensity as compared to people. The moods of nature were frequently used to show the varying states of mind and moods of people. A closer look at the Poussin’s piece of artwork shows that the painter used the mood of nature, the dark background in the painting, to symbolize the somber mood that characterized the crucifixion of Christ.

A comparison can be made between Poussin’s “Crucifixion” and John Constable’s “Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Garden” that was painted in 1820. In this painting, the picturesque created by the landscape in the background compares well with that in the “The Crucifixion” which was pioneered by Poussin.

John Constable framed the cathedral with trees and people walking about the paths and cattle grazing beside the stream. The picture below from[8] shows Constable’s painting with the landscape resembling that in the Poussin’s work save for the different messages that they relay.

Another painting that compares with “The Crucifixion” as far as the theme is concerned is Theodore Gericault’s “The Raft of Medusa”. Melancholic theme as a feature of romantic art movement pervades both artistic works.

While in Poussin’s work Christ is ignominiously crucified with sympathizers looking on in sorrow, Gericault’s painting expresses a scenario of pandemonium with instinctive impulse to survive after a shipwreck.[9] The two paintings also share the historical approach in which their subjects are stricken with agony; that is, they report historical events in the form of images that replicates the feeling of the time upon contemplation by the spectator.[10]

All the above paintings were considered part of Romantic Movement because of the impressions that they created. The themes that they expressed such as sorrow resulting from the exploration of human nature that the movement advocated. Moreover, their historical contexts that make the spectator re-live the events and experience similar feelings that occurred at the time indicate their romantic background.

Conclusion “The Crucifixion” artwork by Nicolas Poussin was a masterpiece of art that the artist worked on with finesse thereby bringing into existence landscape painting that would be emulated later by subsequent painters.

The outstanding nature of this painting among its contemporary at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts ensues from the materials that were used to produce it together with the rare skills that Poussin employed in its production. The landscaping style that he invented in this painting gave it the high rank compared to other artworks by different painters.

The painting conformed to the features of romantic art movement given its overt presentation of emotions, sorrow, use of landscaping, subjectivity, and historical contextualization. Similarly, other works by Theodore Gericault and John Constable share in the influence of the romantic art. Poussin was also influenced by the grandeur paintings of Raphael who practiced during renaissance period.

Bibliography Artble, Nicolas Poussin. Web.

Artsunlight. The Crucifixion. Web.

Carrier, David, Principles of art history writing. Philadelphia, PENN: Penn State Press, 1993, p. 187.

Fried, Michael. Manet’s modernism, or, The face of painting in the 1860s. Chicago, ILL: University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Honour, Hugh. Romanticism. New York, NY: Harper