Foucault and Santa’s Panopticon

santa

Foucault argues that modern governance is carried out through self-discipline facilitated by surveillance. The panopticon is a structure built for surveillance of prisoners. Prisoners, aware that they could be under surveillance anytime, but unable to verify when, start to self-discipline their behaviour. For Foucault, this represents how discipline and punishment work in modern society. An example of panopticism in modern society is Santa Claus. Santa is an ideal example of how the threat of surveillance is used to force discipline on children. “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”- These lyrics lead children to believe that they are subject to surveillance from Santa at anytime. Santa is visible and unverifiable, children are unaware of exactly where he is and when he might be watching, making him an effective tool in modifying children’s behaviours. This captures the processes of panopticism that Foucault describes in Discipline and Punish.

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