Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Michel Foucault uses the example of the Panopticon, an architectural design for prisons which allows constant surveillance of prisoners by unseen guards, to describe how society has come to fear surveillance and thus sanction them lest they be punished by unseen forces. It is a metaphor for how the threat of knowledge on the part of unseen forces exerts power over those being observed, otherwise understood to be society as a whole (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008).

I remember when my father handed me the novel 1984 by George Orwell, he told me that “when a government controls the language, they control the governed.” Throughout my reading of Foucault, I kept remembering what my father told me and then subsequent knowledge I gained from reading the text he had loaned me. In the novel, the Ministry of Truth falsifies historical events and ultimately creates "newspeak" which suits the totalitarian regime in which the story is set. They control the knowledge of the populous in order to keep them under control. For me it exemplifies Foucault’s theory of power/knowledge quite well.

What other examples in our culture, including pop culture, lends credit to Foucaults theory of power as knowledge?


  1. I've read 1984, my favorite book of all time. When you study political science- the rule of thumb is ALWAYS DOUBT government rule. That is what 1984 teaches you- the Ministry of Truth that controls the past and the present- the Ministry of Love controls procreation, and the Ministry of Peace which ironically controls war. I think we've been living in an Orwellian society as long as the wire-tap was invented. The power of knowledge are what cost Nixon the presidency and Bush his credibility as President. The power of knowledge has tempted many into ruin. I think the word Watergate is the epitome of power as knowledge- unfortunately for Nixon, his plan backfired.

  2. To Foucault, "knowledge generating power by constituting people as subjects and then governing the subjects with the knowledge", is a genealogy of power, then wouldn't ever single aspect of politics constitute in this definition. He says science is a very powerful mode of knowledge and the only thing I can think of that might be an example of such is the increasing amount of companies wanting to gain control of efficient and natural energy.
    Even if he focuses more on the historical part of knowledge leading the way, we are still stuck with politics being in the top of the list.