essay 3 - Evans Micah Evans English 111 Aaron Wickstrom Due...

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Evans Micah Evans English 111 Aaron Wickstrom Due 4-14-08 Empowering the Masses In their essays “Ways of Seeing” and “Panopticism”, authors John Berger and Michael Foucault (respectively) discuss the idea of power and the methods by which it is obtained, and the goals that it seeks to achieve. Berger and Foucault have slightly different views about power, and who wields it. However, they both seem to call the reader into action to take power for themselves instead of being controlled by another entity. Where they differ is as to what kind of entity is doing the controlling. Neither author (Foucault is most guilty of this) talks much about the kinds of individuals who do manage to situate themselves outside these author’s discourses. The recent phenomenon of the internet is an example of the human tendency to successfully rebel against regimentation and control. Because the masses have total access to this means of communication and expression, they are empowered to assert themselves in spite of the ruling elite (Berger) or the oversight of authority (Foucault’s panopticism) For the most part, Berger’s call to action involves freedom from the influence of the ruling elite, who he thinks has the goal of making the masses reminiscent and nostalgic of the time when the elite were in complete power. The means by which they aim to do this, Berger says, is by hoarding paintings and ‘mystifying’ the masses, which is a causal relationship. Berger thinks that this mystification occurs because the ruling elite and art historians (who he refers to as “the clerks of the nostalgia of a ruling class in 1
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Evans decline”) deprive the masses of “history which belongs to us” by hoarding paintings, and this leads to people being unable to situate themselves in history and thus they are mystified by it (153, 137). Berger also talks about the bogus religiosity of original pieces of art and how it adds to the masses being mystified by the art of the past. This process occurs because many original pieces of art have an enormous market value, and because of this fact, people automatically assume that the piece of art is a masterpiece even if they have never seen it before. When (or if) they finally go to see the piece, this knowledge will bias their interpretation of the piece, and thus they won’t be able to grasp the full essence of it. He does not explicitly say it, but it can be gleaned that Berger thinks that this bogus religiosity is a tool used by the ruling elite to mystify the masses, thus ensuring their power. He thinks that as long as the ruling elite limits access to information and perspective of the masses, the ruling elite will stay in power. The advice Berger stresses to the masses in his essay in order to escape the power
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This note was uploaded on 04/19/2008 for the course ENGL 110 taught by Professor Berenguel during the Spring '08 term at UConn.

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essay 3 - Evans Micah Evans English 111 Aaron Wickstrom Due...

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