Comparative Analysis Essay





Comparative Analysis Essay

Performing a comparative analysis of objects helps in determining how they interrelate. Michael Foucault’s text on “Panopticism” and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” focus on similar themes such as prisons, and justice systems. The authors have however, taken different approaches to tackle the themes. This paper conducts a comparative analysis of the tow texts to determine their interrelatedness. While both Foucault and Alexander argue that prisons are used by the powerful as a tool of dominating the society, Foucault argues that prisons are systems of controlling and ordering people through unseen forces while Alexander argues that prisons are tools for denying black people their human rights.

Both “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander argue that prisons are used by the powerful as a tool for dominating the society. According to the authors the use of prisons as a form of punishment has allowed the powerful to control the society leading to different classes in the society (Foucault 258). By instilling the fear of punishment for breaking the laws, the powerful have managed to deny citizens their human rights. Both the authors argue that through prisons, human rights are no longer a guarantee. For instance, Foucault argues that prisons were not used as a principal form of punishment with humanitarian interests but rather the powerful had another intention and that is to boost economic growth for their own benefit. Through, Panopticon, prisoners were kept under constant surveillance being unsure of whether they were being observed or not. They were then assigned various responsibilities whose purpose was to promote economic growth. This development would however only benefit the few in power. The prisoners suffered in the prisons as they carried out their chores (Foucault 258).

            Similarly, Michelle Alexander argues that prisons are used to deny people their human rights. The author argues that, the whites continue to use their power over the blacks denying them their human rights. The blacks are designated as properties by keeping them on the lower caste. According to the author, the majority of the prisoners in the US are black people who are imprisoned for even minor wrongs (Alexander 6). The criminal justice system continues to marginalize and disfranchise millions of blacks who are arrested for minor crimes. The prisoners are denied opportunities to be productive citizens and are denied basic rights. According to Alexander, people pf color are arrested for minor crimes at an early age after which they are stripped of basic rights. This continues to create a class of the powerful and less privileged in the society (Alexander 6).

Both authors argue that those in power use prisons to control people for their own gain. According to Panoptic on, those in power have the ability to observe the prisoners and are therefore able to control them. Alexander also argues that more blacks are under control in prisons in the US. This control subjects the blacks to discrimination in the society. Both authors argue that prisons are used as a means of managing and controlling the society by those in power. In both books, prisons give those in power an opportunity to gain more power to control the society (Alexander 6). By having the poor in prisons, those in power are able to manipulate them and have their way.

Both authors argue that the judiciary power takes advantage of the punishment form, that is, prisons, to control and manage the poor in the society. The majority are favoured by the judiciary power leading to the victimization of the minority. According to the authors, the justice system empowers those already in power while criminalizing the minority. Foucault argues that through panopticism, the justice system seeks to have maximum control over power (Foucault 218). This is similar to Alexander’s arguments that the whites seek to control the blacks through the use of the judiciary power which constantly victimizes the blacks.

Foucault argues that prisons are systems of controlling and ordering people through unseen forces while Alexander argues that prisons are tools for denying black people their human rights. In explaining the use of prisons to control and manage people, Foucault takes the approach of panopticism. The author argues that prison, as a disciplinary mechanism is used as a power tool where inmates who are always visible are information objects (Foucault 202). Through prisons, those in power are able to observe the prisoners constantly guaranteeing the power.

Through, panopticism, those in power are able to control, manage and order prisoners. This enables them to have control over political and economic power in the society. Even though Panopticon was aimed at supervising and controlling prisoners efficiently, and to reform prisoners, Foucault argues that those in authority used Bentham’s idea to control and manage people for their own benefit. By marginalizing and controlling the society, the powerful would be able to promote economic growth and maintain the position (Foucault 202). By placing people in prisons, those in power are able to exercise it by reducing the number of people exercising it while increasing the number of people on whom power is exercised.

Alexander takes a different approach in explaining the role of prisons by directing her focus on black discrimination in the US. The author argues that the mass incarnation of black Americans during the war of drugs undermined the achievements of movements of civil rights in the US. Even with the death of Jim Crow laws, Alexander, argues that millions of black people continue being arrested and imprisoned for minor crimes (Alexander 11). The prisoners are then marginalized by the justice system eventually denying then the basic human rights.

Prisons are used as a means to legal discrimination against the blacks, and denial of access to public benefits, education, and employment among other basic rights. Police in the US has been given law enforcement to conduct massive arrests in relation to drugs. Once black people are swept into the justice system, chances of being freely are slim (Alexander 11). In the prisons, the whites would be able to control the black and maintain their dominance (23). Alexander explains how black children as young as fourteen years are sent to adult prisons in an attempt to deny the race the basic human rights and make it easy to control and manage them (Alexander 58).

In conclusion, it is clear that “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander are interrelated in various ways. While both texts argue that prisons are used by those in power to dominate the society, the authors have adopted varying approaches to developing their themes. While Foucault has adopted the use of Panopticism to explain the use of prisons, Alexander uses the imprisonment of blacks in developing her themes and ideas. The comparative analysis shows Foucault and Alexander addressing similar themes but in a different approach. One clear thing though from both texts is that the people in power use prisons to control and manage the society to retain their position.

Work Cited

Alexander, Michelle, “Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness: The New Jim Crow”    New York. The New Press, 2011.

Foucault, Michael, “Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison” Vintage Books, 1995.