The Prayers and Tears of Foucault: Panopticism and the Politics of Dissent in An Enemy of the People and Look Back in Anger

Mojtaba Jeihouni, Pouria Torkamaneh


Drawing on the thought of Foucault, this article argues that the anarchistic protagonists of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People (1882) and John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (1956) are engaged in a hegemonic battle which puts their identities at stake and ultimately exiles them to isolation. It points out that the very success of both in renouncing authority’s sovereignty is what actually hastens their failure in the end. The identification of this failure with panopticism, which for Foucault characterizes the modern economy of power, is the primary concern of this article. It is argued that through the subtle process of normalizing subjects the panopticon establishes a disciplinary society where citizens are stripped of their subjective voices. The central characters of both plays are thus easily exposed to panoptic surveillance when they decide to take on the strategies of power. Further, using Foucault’s concept of exclusion, the article proceeds to illustrate how in filtering out these delinquent individuals the hands of power urge them to refine their ways and how, upon failure, they exert the policy of exclusion.

Keywords: Foucault, Panopticon, Exclusion, Dr. Stockmann, Jimmy Porter

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