Re-Envisioning Peacekeeping: The United Nations and the Mobilization of Ideology

By François Debrix | Go to book overview

2
Space Quest: The UN and the Politics
of Panoptic Surveillance

An omnivoyant eye, a power from above, capable of encompassing by its constant gaze all life on earth and of simultaneously controlling and regulating with a most detailed perfection the existence of individuals, animals, plants, machines, institutions placed under its inspection: the myth of an omnivoyant and omnipotent center of surveillance has persisted, from Christian mystics of the late Middle Ages to nineteenth-century liberal utilitarians, from technocratic fictions (Orwell's 1984) to some of the most recent global governance and planetary sustainability utopias (late-twentieth-century environmentalism ). Jeremy Bentham first formulated 1 the myth and, later, Michel Foucault theorized it as a panoptic society. 2 The panoptic society or Panopticon is a model of human and/or technological organization governed by three principles: clarity, surveillance, and discipline. The central eye/power of such a control mechanism sees all and everything at once. Privacy, selfishness, individual pulsions are eliminated by the mere fact that the omnipresence of the controlling eye is a sure reminder that punishment is always possible. God (or an equivalent principle of authority and governance) knows all and sees all. And the wrath of God can strike at any moment. In such a universe of perpetual control and immanent/imminent punishment, bodies can be disciplined with minimum power and, at the limit, without physical force. Bodies need not be tortured. Simply, they are docile. The panoptic mode of governance is a marvelously efficient

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