‘The Panopticon Writings’ by Jeremy Bentham

This edition published by Verso in 2011.

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A definitive collection of Bentham’s work on the model prison, key to Foucault’s theory of power. A comprehensive introduction by Miran Božović explores the place of Panopticon in contemporary theoretical debate.

The Panopticon project for a model prison obsessed the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham for almost 20 years. In the end, the project came to nothing; the Panopticon was never built. But it is precisely this that makes the Panopticon project the best exemplification of Bentham’s own theory of fictions, according to which non-existent fictitious entities can have all too real effects. There is probably no building that has stirred more philosophical controversy than Bentham’s Panopticon. The Panopticon is not merely, as Foucault thought, “a cruel, ingenious cage”, in which subjects collaborate in their own subjection, but much more—constructing the Panopticon produces not only a prison, but also a god within it. The Panopticon is a machine which on assembly is already inhabited by a ghost. It is through the Panopticon and the closely related theory of fictions that Bentham has made his greatest impact on modern thought; above all, on the theory of power.

The Panopticon writings are frequently cited, rarely read. This edition contains the complete “Panopticon Letters”, together with selections from “Panopticon Postscript I” and “Fragment on Ontology”, Bentham’s fullest account of fictions. A comprehensive introduction by Miran Božović explores the place of Panopticon in contemporary theoretical debate.


Miran Božovič (b. 1957 in Ljubljana, Slovenia) is Professor of Early Modern Philosophy at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana. Closely related to the so-called Ljubljana School of Psychoanalysis, his research focuses primarily on 17th- and 18th cent. Philosophy. Božovič received a BA in Comparative Literature (1980), a BA in Philosophy (1981), an MA in Philosophy (1984) as well as a PhD in Philosophy (1991)all from the University of Ljubljana. He has published numerous books, book chapters, and articles. His recent publications include An Utterly Dark Spot: Gaze and Body in Early Modern Philosophy, Der große Andere: Gotteskonzepte in der Philosophie der Neuzeit, Utilitarismus and Filozofija na Luni.

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