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From Discipline to Control

Part 1 Dissertation 2006
Eleanor Atkinson
University for the Creative Arts Canterbury UK
I begin my dissertation with the question, has our society shifted from one of discipline to one of control? Through the dissertation, my aim has been to address this question by reference to key comparative works by Foucault and Deleuze and through specific focus on the typology of the prison.

Through discussing particular model examples of prisons, I explore the progression from what Foucault theorises as the ‘Discipline Society’ to the ‘Control Society’ as theorised by Deleuze. I primarily focus on the Do Tank’s model for the Learning Prison (2003). However, for thematic and spatial illustration of the progression from Discipline to Control that I am interested in, I also discuss Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon (1779).

I examine the progression from Discipline to Control in particular by considering the differing organisation of the two prison models and stated aims of their designers. I also consider the different relationships established between each of the models and their surrounding urban and social contexts- the degree to which the prison is continuous or contiguous with the town.

I argue that control may be understood as a step before discipline, in the sense that it relates to frameworks that provide norms within which to act and manage before recourse to discipline is actually required. Through social conditioning, an individual within the Control Society is led towards making informed or acceptable decisions. The Learning Prison would operate primarily in such way as to re-condition and re-educate the individual.

Towards the end of the dissertation, I reflect that not only has there been progression from Discipline to Control, but that aspects of the Discipline Society have transformed within contemporary society itself. Our movements are continuously monitored through the use of advanced technology, placing us within an ‘all seeing’ system, in other words a new, ephemeral version of the Panopticon. Baudrillard writes that ‘it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, that is carceral”. Implicit in this statement is the view that the ‘Panopticon’ is now extended across the whole of society, placing us all both in the cell and in the watchtower.

Eleanor Atkinson


This dissertation attained the highest mark that was awarded in this third year at Canterbury School of Architecture. The student spent considerable time researching the model of the ‘Learning Prison’ and building up a theoretical framework through which to analyse it. The text succeeds in bringing together spatial analysis with architectural and cutural theory. The clear tone of much of the dissertation gives the impression of someone who is confident of their material, skilful in handling it and with now good potential for development.

Juliet Davis_ Senior Lecturer

2006
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