panopticon control

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Refers to a system of work organization in which employees can be monitored by managers at any time, but are unaware of when they are being monitored. This has the same effect as if they were being continuously monitored by managers. The term ‘panopticon’ derives from the design for a prison of the nineteenth-century social philosopher Jeremy Bentham. He envisaged a circular array of individual prison cells facing a central tower, in which would be located the prison guards. The prisoners would be clearly visible to the guards, but an elaborate system of screens would prevent the prisoners from seeing the guards—so they would not know when they were being monitored. This is akin to the concept of Big Brother in George Orwell's novel 1984. More recently the term has been popularized by the post-modern theorist, Michel Foucault, who applied the notion of panopticon control to the way employees are increasingly monitored through means of electronic surveillance. [See call centre.]

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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