Foucault’s Discipline and Punish Spring 2006 About the Author

Yüklə 1,31 Mb.
ölçüsü1,31 Mb.

Foucault’s Discipline and Punish

  • Spring 2006

About the Author

  • To the extent that Foucault fits into the philosophical tradition, it is the critical tradition of Kant, and his project could be called a Critical History of Thought. This should not be taken to mean a history of ideas that would be at the same time an analysis of errors that might be gauged after the fact; or a decipherment of the misinterpretations linked to them and on which what we think today might depend. If what is meant by thought is the act that posits a subject and an object, along with their possible relations, a critical history of thought would be an analysis of the conditions under which certain relations of subject to object are formed or modified, insofar as those relations constitute a possible knowledge [savoir].

  • This text was first written by Foucault as a retrospective view about his work for the introduction to his book "History of Sexuality", it was then given by Foucault, under the pseudonym "Maurice Florence" as the article for the entry "Foucault" in "Dictionnaire des philosophes" 1984, pp 942-944.


Faces of Michel Foucault

Again, about himself…

  • 'My role - and that is too emphatic a word - is to show people that they are much freer than they feel, that people accept as truth, as evidence, some themes which have been built up at a certain moment during history, and that this so-called evidence can be criticized and destroyed.‘

  • 'Truth, power, self: An interview with Michel Foucault October 25 1982', in Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault Eds Luther H. Martin and Patrick Hutton, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, p.10

  • [ accessed 12 April 12, 2000]

Personal Biography

  • Born in 1926 in Poitiers, the son of a surgeon. Teenage years in occupied France. Educated in the very competitive French academic system finally winning a place at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. First successful writings in the 1960s. Died in 1984.

Intellectual Biography

  • “Foucault, like many began his philosophical career considering psychological phenomena. In Mental Illness and Personality(1954), he developed an existential phenomenology within the boundaries of Marxist thought.

  • His interest in philosophical science and history led him to write extensively on the middle ages and the "archaeology of knowledge." Shifting to a more genealogical explanation of the transitions between major stages of human development led him to consider the causal effects of non-related causes upon the development of new thought.

  • His major works also include: History of Madness in the Classical Age(1961), The Birth of the Clinic(1963), The Order of Things(1966), and The Archaeology of Knowledge(1969). His later works dealing with sexuality and religion, as well as modern thought include Discipline and Punish(1975), History of Sexuality(1976), The Confessions of the Flesh(unpublished), The Use of Pleasure(1984), and The Care of the Self(1984).

  • His later works clearly show the major thrust of his thought: he sought the liberation of man from contingent conceptual constraints masked as unsurpassable a priori limits and the adumbration of alternative forms of existence.”

  • [ accessed 12 April 2000]

Intellectual Biography (cont’d)

  • Major works also include: History of Madness in the Classical Age (1961), (1963), The Order of Things (1966), and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969). His later works dealing with sexuality and religion, as well as modern thought include Discipline and Punish (1975), History of Sexuality (1976), The Confessions of the Flesh (unpublished), The Use of Pleasure (1984), and The Care of the Self (1984).

  • His later works clearly show the major thrust of his thought: he sought the liberation of man from contingent conceptual constraints masked as unsurpassable a priori limits and the adumbration of alternative forms of existence.”

  • [ accessed 12 April 2000]

The Books

Our Book Today

Discipline and Punish, from the outside in

  • Is this the structure of the book?

      • Torture
      • Punishment
      • Discipline
      • Prison

Or is it this…

Or is it this…

Or this?

Can we even say, before we’ve “defined” what Foucault means by each section title?


  • Mid-18th century

  • Spectacular (literally) assault on body

  • Intentional pain

  • Marking the body

  • Person as “mark-able”


  • “‘Let penalties be regulated and proportioned to the offences, let the death sentence be passed onl on those convicted of murder, and let the tortures that revolt humanity be abolished.’” (73)

  • 19th century penal reform

  • Punishment as “reformatory” in which the offender is re-trained as an obedient subject, a compliant signatory to the social contract.

  • Person as repairable.


  • Making soldiers. Break down, build up.

  • Close order drill.

  • This idea can be transferred to other activities – can make lawyers, activists, MBA, etc. – molding people.

  • You can build the rules into people.

  • Person as docile, programmable, trainable.


  • Prison is an invention but one that has come to be completely taken for granted.

  • All control reduced to single “cash” nexus of “time”

  • Generalized control is normalized, made to be a part of “how things are” rather than self-consciously “the law of the king”

  • Control embedded in knowledge.

  • Society as complex network of power

And so, look at page 7

  • “We have, then, a public execution and a time-table. They do not punish the same crimes or the same type of delinquent. But they each define a penal style. Less than a century separates them. … Among so many changes, I shall consider one: the disappearance of torture as a public spectacle. …

  • “…it has been attributed too readily and too emphatically to a process of ‘humanization’,….”

And page 9

  • “Punishment had gradually ceased to be a spectacle.

  • “Punishment …become[s] he most hidden part of the penal process.

  • “It…enters [the realm] of abstract consciousness

  • “[I]ts effectiveness…result[s] from its inevitability, not from its visible intensity….”

Part I. Torture


The Assassination of Louis XV by Damiens

Damiens Being Broken on the Wheel

Eighty years later, Faucher drew up his rules "for the House of young prisoners in Paris"

  • Art. 19. The prayers are conducted by the chaplain and followed by a moral or religious reading. This exercise must not last more than half an hour.

  • Art. 20. Work. At a quarter to six in the summer, a quarter to seven in winter, the prisoners go down into the courtyard where they must wash their hands and faces, and receive their first ration of bread. Immediately afterwards, they form into work-teams and go off to work, which must begin at six in summer and seven in winter.

  • Art. 21. Meal. At ten o'clock the prisoners leave their work and go to the refectory; they wash their hands in their courtyards and assemble in divisions. After the dinner, there is recreation until twenty minutes to eleven.

  • Art. 22. School. At twenty minutes to eleven, at the drum-roll, the prisoners form into ranks, and proceed in divisions to the school. The class lasts two hours and consists alternately of reading, writing, drawing and arithmetic.

“The Body of the Condemned”

…a relationship between power and the body…[24-30]

What I want to do is write a “correlative history of the present” (31)

QUESTION: What transformations does Foucault take note of here?

  • A whole series of parallel transformations. If we can line them up we might be able to see some of his logic.

  • unbearable sensations  suspended rights

  • effect by visibility  effect by inevitability

  • torture of body  imprisonment of body

  • judging crimes  judging souls

  • who did it?  how to understand the authorship?

  • This last suggests that we now ask "what did this?" We want to know what sort of thing this criminal amongst us is and how we should treat him.

What are we to make of the disappearance of torture as a public spectacle?

  • Answer: Let's not be too hasty to attribute it to a process of humanization... [7]

    • What “disappeared”? What should we make of this transformation? The body as major target of penal repression (8.3).
    • Two processes were at work (8.4)
      • Disappearance of punishment as spectacle – punishment become hidden part of penal process. (8.5-9.5)
      • Punishment as everyday perception  punishment in abstract consciousness (9.5)
    • Publicity shifts to the trial – judgment separated from punishment
    • “slackening hold on the body” (10.6)

What are we to make of the disappearance of torture as a public spectacle? (cont’d)

  • Art of unbearable sensations  economy of suspended rights (11.5)

  • Executioner  warders, doctors, chaplains, psychiatrists, educationalists (11.6)

  • Real body  juridical subject as point of application of law

  • But despite all the changes there remains a “trace” of torture in how we think about punishment – “prisoners shouldn’t have it easy” we say (16.4-5)


  • Four general rules:

  • Regard punishment as a complex social function.

  • View punitive methods one body techniques among the various ways of exercising power. Regard punishment as a political tactic.

  • Don't see history of penal law and history of human sciences as separate. Ask whether the "technology of power" is not a common principle behind the "humanization of punishment" and the "knowledge of man."

  • Is this double trend -- soul into penal system and scientific knowledge into legal practice -- result of a change in the way in which the body is invested with power relations?


  • by an analysis of penal leniency as a technique of power, one might understand both how man, the soul, the normal or abnormal individual have come to duplicate crime as objects of penal intervention; and in what way a specific mode of subjection was able to give birth to man as an object of knowledge for a discourse with a 'scientific' status. [p.24] There comes to be a "proliferation of authorities" who get to have a say in whether the guilty man "deserves" this or that punishment and there is a body of TECHNOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE with which such decisions can be made and a group of EXPERTS who get to make this determination.

The Spectacle of the Scaffold [32-69]

  • Review of penal practices in pre-rev France (1670-1790) – torture as technique [32-35]

  • Visibility, pain, body, truth [35-42]

  • How the body produces and reproduces the truth of the crime [42-47]

The Spectacle of the Scaffold [32-69]

  • Execution as socio-political restoration of the injured sovereign (“it reactivated power” (49.6)) [47-54]

    • Spectacle all out of proportion so as to give impression of imbalance – suggest a “god” on earth (49.3)
    • Cf. Touching the ark of the covenant – instant death – scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
    • Cf. What terrorists do (blow up big buildings, for example) and how the state reacts to terrorists. Important to react viciously to make the point that “states” still rule the world.

The Spectacle of the Scaffold [32-69]

  • Why did public torture survive so long? Not retaliation but a ritual of power. [54-57]

  • The public was important part of spectacle of torture but also dangerous to sovereign because at the same time it felt its own power. Execution days as social control holidays (cf. riots during parades, e.g., after sports victories). Thus public spectacle gives way to “more humane” more controlled techniques. [57-65]

  • From apocryphal “gallows speeches” to crime literature in which the criminal is the cunning hero [65-69]

Leading Questions

  • What is the picture you get of the earliest form of torture that Foucault describes at the start of the book?

  • What does Foucault mean by “humanization” at 7.8?  What is the “it” of the next sentence?  Put into your own words his claim that “perhaps it has been attributed too readily and too emphatically to a process of ‘humanization’, thus dispensing with the need for further analysis”?

Leading Questions

  • At 18.9-19.1 Foucault writes of the legal system’s consideration of the offender’s mental state (or soul) that it is only apparently “limitative” and “explanatory.”  What does he mean by this?  What does he mean when he says, in the same paragraph, “judging something more than crimes, namely, the ‘soul’ of the criminal”? 

  • A common theme in writers like Foucault is that of “inscription.”  At 18.8, for example, we read “Psychiatric expertise … find[s] one if [its] precise functions here: by solemnly inscribing offenses in the field of objects subject to scientific knowledge, they provide the mechanisms of legal punishment with a justifiable hold not only on offences, but on individuals; not only on what they do, but on what they are, will be, may be.”  What do you understand this metaphor of inscription to mean here?  

Leading Questions

  • Foucault says, on page 20, that the sentence implies "judgements of normality, attributions of causality, assessments of possible changes, anticipations as to the offender's future."  What does he mean by this?  

  • There is a useful summary paragraph on p. 23:  

  • This book is intended as a correlative history of the modern soul and of a new power to judge; a genealogy of the present scientifico-legal complex from which the power to punish derives its bases, justifications, and rules, from which it extends its effects and by which it masks its exorbitant singularity.  

  • What do you understand by “correlative history, genealogy, scientifico-legal complex, singularity”?

  • Can we come up with a paraphrase of this paragraph to tell ourselves what this book is about?

Leading Questions

  • At 24.3 the author writes “penal leniency as a technique of power….”  What does this mean?

  • What initial definitions of “power” can we derive from the paragraphs between 26.6 and 27.5?

Robert-François Damiens

Yüklə 1,31 Mb.

Dostları ilə paylaş:

Verilənlər bazası müəlliflik hüququ ilə müdafiə olunur © 2020
rəhbərliyinə müraciət

    Ana səhifə