Foucault and the Architecture of Surveillance – Creating Regimes of Power in Schools, Shrines, and Society

Michel Foucault’s critical studies concerning regimes of power are of special interest when applied to architecture. In particular, he warned of the hazards of building surveillance into architectural structures for the purpose of monitoring people and took as his historical exemplar English philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon,” a structure originally used to assist in rehabilitating prisoners. He felt this kind of regulatory control resulted in maintaining the power of one group over another. This article discusses what Foucault called the general ordering of the visible and the invisible by examining architecture as he viewed it—as an operation of power, control, and domination. More to the point, it places this belief in the context of power constructions in both sacred and school architecture and how this, in turn, creates a carceral society. This article also puts forward some of Foucault’s thinking on architecture and connects this to his ideas of perceptual visibles and invisibles. The suggestion of schools as institutions of conformity and how their built environment functions as a regulatory force for this conformity is also explored.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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