Bentham’s Prison: A Study of the Panopticon Penitentiary

Clarendon Press (1993)
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Abstract

At the end of the eighteenth century, Jeremy Bentham devised a scheme for a prison that he called the panopticon. It soon became an obsession. For twenty years he tried to build it; in the end he failed, but the story of his attempt offers fascinating insights into both Bentham's complex character and the ideas of the period. Basing her analysis on hitherto unexamined manuscripts, Janet Semple chronicles Bentham's dealings with the politicians as he tried to put his plans into practice. She assesses the panopticon in the context of penal philosophy and eighteenth-century punishment and discusses it as an instrument of the modern technology of subjection as revealed and analysed by Foucault. Her entertainingly written study is full of drama: at times it is hilariously funny, at others it approaches tragedy. It illuminates a subject of immense historical importance and which is particularly relevant to modern controversies about penal policy.

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