By carceral culture, Foucault refers to a culture in which the panoptic model of surveillance has been diffused as a principle of social organization, affecting such disparate things as the university classroom (see right for a prison school that resembles some classroom auditoriums); urban planning (organized on a grid structure to facilitate movement but also to discourage concealment); hospital and factory architecture; and so on. As Foucault puts it, the Panopticon is polyvalent in its applications; it serves to reform prisoner, but also to treat patients, to instruct schoolchildren, to confine the insane, to supervise workers, to put beggars and idlers to work. It is a type of location of bodies in space, of distribution of individuals in relation to one another, of hierarchical organization, of disposition of centres and channels of power, of definition of the instruments and modes of intervention of power, which can be implemented in hospitals, workshops, schools, prisons. Whenever one is dealing with a multiplicity of individuals on whom a task or a particular form of behaviour must be imposed, the panoptic schema may be used. (Foucault, Discipline 205).
“The panoptic schema, without disappearing as such or losing any of its properties, was destined to spread throughout the social body,” Foucault explains; “its vocation was to become a generalized function” (Discipline 207). The ultimate result is that we now live in the panoptic machine: “We are neither in the amphitheatre, nor on the stage, but in the panoptic machine, invested by its effects of power, which we bring to ourselves since we are part of its mechanism” (Discipline 217).
Michel Foucault warned us. He knew. He saw. He surveilled us from the inside.
Did we pay attention?