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Orwell and Foucault

  • Date Submitted: 01/27/2010 11:13 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 55.8 
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“A Fatal Utopia”




“Two ways of exercising power over men, of controlling their relations, of separating out their dangerous mixtures. The plague stricken town, transversed throughout with hierarchy, surveillance, observation, writing; the town immobilized by the functioning of an extensive power that bears in a distinct way over all individual bodies-this is the utopia of the perfectly governed city” (Page 6 Michel Foucault) This quote extracted from the Essay Panopticism written by Michel Foucault perfectly describes in detail the controls put on the citizens of Big Brother’s Oceania in George Orwell’s 1984. Through control of relation, surveillance, and separating out their dangerous mixtures Big Brother obtains a government system, which is described by Foucault as a “Utopia.”


The Utopia relies upon more than one method of control as noted by Foucault, but the far most significant method is surveillance. “The telescreen received and transmittes simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, about the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, as long he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque was commanded, he could be seen as well as   heard” (Page 6 Orwell).   In Orwell’s 1984 the surveillance is achieved by the distressing, constant presence of the telescreen. No individual was free of the thought that the vigilant telescreen would catch you in some undefiable act, which would lead to unquestionable


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vaporization. “This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all events are recorded…” (Page 5 Foucault) The panopticon in Foucault essay is stressing exactly the same purpose as that of the telescreen in Orwell’s 1984. Simply that constant threat of punishment , but...

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