"Putting ourselves in the prisoners’ situation may be the best way to shed light on the
theoretical problems posed by these readings. What would it mean to comply with power
through “anticipatory conformity”? We would certainly try to act according to what
power expects from us, but we would only do so because we would be aware of the
possibility of being observed. We would act differently if given the opportunity to escape
power’s eye. We would resemble “docile bodies”, but our docility would only be
apparent, a mask that we carried as long as we thought we were being observed.
To put it differently, we would internalize power’s eye but we would not identify with its
values. In reality, instead of an unfolding of ourselves in consciousness and its object, our
conduct, we would experience a threefold partition of our interiority. We would distance
ourselves from our behaviors and look at them with power’s internalized eyes. However,
there would be an additional detachment: a part of ourselves constituted by our
consciousness and desire would be sheltered from power’s eyes.
Concretely, we would act considering the possibility of observation and posterior
punishment and objectify our conduct accordingly, but we would not believe that by
acting thus we would be doing what is best for us. Self-surveillance would be, in fact,
experienced as surveillance of an internalized, but identified, other upon us.
(...) leave out the inner monologue, what I say to myself. They leave out
self-discipline, what I do to myself. Thus, they omit the permanent
heartland of the subjectivity. It is seldom force that keeps us on the
straight and narrow; it is conscience (Hacking, 1986: 236).
These peripheral beings, these marginal and exterior existences produced by power
relations constituted the interiority of the ‘normal’ individuals. As they tried to ascertain
their nature and value, they compared themselves to the incarnated abnormal. The norm
possessed a feedback mechanism: if a norm of behavior comes to exist in reality, it is
reinforced by the fact that no one desires to be outside it (Hacking, 1990: 5). Individuals,
then, fear potential abnormality not only in others but also within themselves, and thus
refrain from doing what would characterize them, in their own eyes, as abnormal. The
norm becomes the object of individuals’ desire instead of being only externally imposed.
After all, where can the norm extract its value if not from that which it tries to negate?
For instance, where would the merits of a sexuality confined to the limits of genitality
reside if the pervert, as a ‘sick’ soul with ‘repulsive’ passions, did not exist in reality?
Through the creation of an impersonated ethical negativity and the subsequent
internalization of potential abnormality by every ‘normal’ individual, normalizing power
attains two major effects. On one hand, the subjection to power’s gaze and scrutiny is
consented insofar as figures of power embody the functions of caring and ensuring the
‘normality’ of those they watch over. On the other hand, self-surveillance is part of the
necessary care of the self, with this care assuming the form of an effort to constitute
oneself as a normal citizen.
To make the soul suffer, rather than the body (Foucault, 1979: 179, 181) – this is the
logic of a power that, instead of repressing an a-historical subject, constitutes a subject
that judges and condemns his or her own acts, intentions, desires and pleasures according
to ‘truths’ that are historically produced. The suffering of the soul is not that of a
repressed consciousness, but one of guilt, ‘bad consciousness’ (Nietzsche, 1968: 505): its
pain is experienced when moral failure resides in its deeds and sensations.
(quoted from: http://www.surveillance-and-society.org)