Chapter

John Howard and the Origins of the Panopticon

Janet Semple

in Bentham's Prison

Published in print July 1993 | ISBN: 9780198273875
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191684074 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198273875.003.0004
John Howard and the Origins of the Panopticon

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This chapter discusses the similarity between the Penitentiary Act of 1779, drafted by English prison reformist John Howard, and Jeremy Bentham's panopticon. The Act and the panopticon both originated from the rational utilitarianism of the Enlightenment and the ideas of the prison reformers were inspired by Christianity and a concern for the individual soul. Howard's penitentiary and Bentham's panopticon are products of the same climate of ideas and assumptions that men are responsible for their actions and not subject to subconscious imperatives or the playthings of irresistible economic forces.

Keywords: Penitentiary Act of 1779; John Howard; panopticon; Jeremy Bentham; rational utiliatarianism; Enlightement; prison reformers

Chapter.  12913 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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