Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, although verbose, contains important dialogue concerning the concept of power in the penal systems of late 18th century France with public execution, and the gradual transformation of power in subsequent disciplinary systems up to modern times. Power is closely related to the concepts of violence or force, but they are not the same. Throughout this work, Foucault establishes the trend of using power as a sort of political technology over the human body.
According to Foucault, power relations transcend every facet of society, and are not simply localized in those relations between citizens and the government. Power must be aligned closely with the concept of knowledge. Basically, there is no power relation without a sort of constitution of knowledge, or any sort of knowledge not inferring to or allowing for power relations (Foucault, 27). So why are power and knowledge so closely related in this work? The work of science, which intends to directly produce knowledge, has developed alongside the power of punishment. The punitive system began as a public spectacle, intended to deter criminals by making an example of the criminal. In this sense, the power of the punitive system is indeed asymmetrical, for it focuses more power in the hands of the king. The government of the king employed visible force in order to retain its position over the citizenry. The idea of grisly executions made sense for such a time, mainly because it allowed the king to prove his legitimacy by taking direct retribution for wrongdoing physically on the body of the individual. In the case that the sovereign power, namely the king or prince himself, attends the execution, the execution becomes a struggle over disobedience as well as the symbolic victory over enemies of the society. “Besides its immediate victim, the crime attacks the sovereign: it attacks him personally, since the law represents the will of the sovereign; it attacks him physically,...
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