Essays On Foucault Discipline And Punish

Does Foucault believe that prison can be abolished as a penalty?

No. Foucault's whole argument rests on the idea that prison is inevitable in modern society. Its abolition is unthinkable, partly because the practical alternatives simply do not exist, and partly because it is a central part of modern systems of power and discipline. Foucault's argument is that modern societies (he is thinking particularly of France) are based on the idea of individual liberty. As prison deprives people of their liberty, it is the most "obvious" penalty. More importantly, the systems of discipline and observation that operate within the prison extend outside its walls: the carceral system integrates the prison and the wider world. Foucault does not argue that the prison cannot be changed, however: the further development of the human sciences may lead to them taking over some of its functions. You should consider in relation to this question how far you think Foucault's idea of power and the discourse allows individuals to act freely and change things like prisons.

What is the prison's place in society?

This is a complex question, but the simple answer is that Foucault sees the prison as very closely linked with many of the structures of modern society. The mechanisms of discipline and power that control the prisoner's life also control that of the citizen. Foucault's account of the development of the prison and the carceral system makes it clear that society has a "carceral texture" and is penetrated by the same mechanisms that operate within the prison. Equally, through its construction of delinquency, the prison helps to control and regulate class conflict and popular illegality. You should recognize that the prison and society always operate together to produce these effects.

Why does Foucault call Discipline and Punish a history of the modern soul?

Essentially, because in order to explain why the prison became the major instrument of penality in Europe, he consider the structures and mechanisms by which people are disciplined. These mechanisms act upon the soul, rather than the body, and so in explaining how modern penality operates, Foucault also tackles the soul. Also, in writing a genealogy of punishment, Foucault in part asks us to look inside our own souls. The development of discourses that exclude people and brand them as abnormal reflect badly on those who are classified as "normal", a fact he feels we should consider. Discipline and Punish is not just a history of the modern soul, but also a critique.

How far does Foucault's explanation of the development of the prison depend on social and economic factors?

What is the relationship between Foucault's role as a political activist and the concerns of Discipline and Punish?

Discuss the concept of the gaze in Discipline and Punish.

What is the role of the Panopticon in the work?

How does Foucault explain the movement for prison reform?

Is Discipline and Punish a work of history or philosophy?

Where and how was the modern prison "born", according to Foucault?

Michel Foucault's argument about "political technologies of the body" is a study of the art of discipline which relies on four basic strategies. First, rounding up these "bodies", or the objects of power, and making sure they are clearly defined in their "confinement" to their group. Second, this confinement serves as a means to locate, calculate and study this already labeled segment of the society. This helps the authority "to assess it, to judge it, to calculate its qualities or merits. It [is] a procedure, therefore, aimed at knowing, mastering and using," (143). Third, confinement sites or spaces, although are sometimes but imaginary, must appeal to their prisoners. These spaces must be viewed as production sites not as prisons, and their prisoners must believe that they are in control. Finally, these places become easy to control and discipline because mobility, which can exist between the ranks within the confined spaces, allows for movement and ultimately a feeling of freedom and power.

It is important to note here that power, in this modern sense, has become inherent within the system. Inflicting physical pain and other forms of torture have been replaced by a system that counts, evaluates, ranks and reduces humans to "docile bodies". Foucault and Barbara Cruikshank both believe that power in this modern context is basically a game of deceit. If one is led to believe that he/she is in control, by luring them into believing in the power they possess by belonging to a group of individuals of their own "abilities", these people will feel a satisfaction that will ultimately paralyze their ability to act. They will resolve to battling each other within their ranks and forget to battle the real power that inhibits their upward mobility and above all their freedom.

These "docile bodies", and the docile minds they contain, are clearly a product that is produced and manufactured in institutions that, to our satisfaction, comply with human rights, a term that after centuries of oppression and severe physical torture is very appealing to many. Everything in our present day and time is thought of to preserve our so-called "pride" and "freedom". However, when and if we do consider Foucault's argument in "Discipline and Punish", we will find that some institutions, such as the army for example, are but wise and elaborate systems of deceit that cannot be part of this fight for human rights. In fact, Foucault begins his chapter on discipline by describing a soldier in the 17th century before the "projects of docility" were put to use and in the 18th century


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