Posts Tagged 'Modernity'

Modernity as Post-Panoptical

Whatever else the present stage in the history of modernity is, it is also, perhaps above all, post-Panoptical. (Bauman, 10:2000)

Post-Panoptical? This post-Panoptical age , “in this history of modernity”, may not be that hard to understand, or to imagine. The Panoptican, as Zygmunt Bauman illustrates in Liquid Modernity, was used as an archmetaphor by Michel Foucault, (borrowing from Jeremy Bentham’s design), to examine the state of modern power (Bauman, 9:2000). The Panopticon imprisons inmates “within thick, dense and closely guarded walls,” fixing them to the laborious equipment within, or around the cell (Bauman, 9:200). However, the inmates’ fixation to the minimal spatiality of the cell is not the only form of control disabling the inmate: the control of this fixation is made possible by the ever watchful eye of the warden. As Bauman accounts, “they could not move because they were under watch; they had to stick to their appointed places at all times because they did not know, and had no way of knowing where at the moment their watchers – free to move at will – were (Bauman, 9-10:2000). As Bauman illustrates, “access to the means of transportation and the resulting freedom of movement,” is the foundation of power; conversely, the inmates immobilization also aids in defining persuasions of power (Bauman, 10:2000). Immediately, we can envisage a common Marxist theme: “the means of […]”; production, transportation, education, welfare, etc. The nouns warden and inmate metaphorically transform into two differing possibilities: In Marxist economical terms, warden becomes bourgeois while inmate becomes the proletariat; and in Foucauldian biopolitical terms, warden is government, and inmate, citizen. These metaphorical transformations give greater credence for Panopticon serving allegorically to modernity being Panoptical and subsequently post-Panoptical.

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