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Panopticism as Privacy Prohibition

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And while London is in urban decay, the whole of Oceania is a totalitarian society that can also be described as a Panoptic society. The Panopticon is a prison model created by Jeremy Bentham where the inmates are under constant surveillance by guards, who are not seen by the inmates. The inmate does not know whether he is being looked at in any moment but must assume that they are always being watched. Now, we know that the Party’s main goal is to have power.

The major effect of a Panopticon is “to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.” In 1984, citizens are in a constant state of surveillance, just like that of the Panopticon prison structure. The Party creates Panopticism by implementing omnipresent surveillance technology, specifically telescreens, and hidden microphones. The Party obtains absolute control over its citizens by having a telescreen in every Party member home and microphones hidden all over Oceania, from buildings to bushes. Panopticism eliminates the privacy of citizens through this technology, and further maintains the Party’s control. Citizens in Oceania must always act orthodox because “There was, of course, no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment… You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized”.

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The citizens are aware they are being watched, and their public awareness of this surveillance are control mechanisms for the Party to know what the citizens are doing. Panoptical surveillance creates its own internal self-surveillance among citizens. Due to the constant policing of the Party, the citizens also police themselves to avoid any unorthodox actions. They must monitor their own behavior to stay free from facecrime, but they also monitor their own private thoughts.

Present in 1984, there is also surreptitious surveillance which contrasts with Panopticism. Surreptitious surveillance is when people think and believe that they aren’t being watched, so they talk and act freely, while actually and unfortunately being watched. While Panoptical surveillance makes people self-regulate themselves under the feeling of being constantly watched, surreptitious surveillance lets people believe they are in a secluded setting, free from watchful eyes of the Thought police. When Winston thinks he is being watched, he puts on a mask and character to seem orthodox. When Winston thinks he isn’t being watched, he voices his opinions and does promiscuous, and illegal actions. And Ta-Da, all his unorthodox conversations, and actions with his lover Julia had been heard, with the help of a telescreen hidden behind a painting in Mr. Carrington’s room.

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Panopticism as Privacy Prohibition. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“Panopticism as Privacy Prohibition.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
Panopticism as Privacy Prohibition. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2023].
Panopticism as Privacy Prohibition [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2023 Dec 6]. Available from:
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