Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault

Topics: Prison, Punishment, Penology Pages: 35 (13173 words) Published: April 8, 2013
Discipline and Punish Michel Foucault (trans. Robert Hurley) Part One: Torture
1. The body of the condemned
This first section of Part One serves as an introduction to the entire book.  Examples of eighteenth-century torture provide Foucault with many colorful episodes to relate in his account of how penality changed in modernity.  Foucault relates an explicit account of Damien's torture to introduce his subject (3-5) and compares that account of penality to Faucher's timetable for prisoners published in approximately 1837 (6-7).

The period separating these two accounts is a "new age for penal justice" in Europe and the United States that saw changes in the following areas: -- Economy of punishment
-- Numerous projects for reform
-- New theories of law and crime
-- New moral and political justifications of the right to punish -- The disappearance of old laws and customs (7).
In the span of only a few decades between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, torture as public spectacle disappeared (7) as did "the body as the major target of penal repression" (8).  Two processes were at work in this transformation: (1) Disappearance of punishment as spectacle (8); and

(2) Slackening of the hold on the body (10)
Disappearance of punishment as spectacle (8)
Punishment becomes a hidden part of the penal process with several consequences: (1) It leaves the domain of everyday perception and enters that of abstract consciousness; (2) Its effectiveness is seen as resulting from its inevitability, not from its visible intensity; (3) It is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of public punishment that must discourage crime; (4) The mechanics of punishment changes its mechanisms; thus, "justice no longer takes public responsibility for the violence that is bound up with its practice . . .[and] is difficult to account for" (9).  Public spectacle turned the tables, enveloping the executioner, judge, and other associated parties in shame and often the subject of the public's violence.  The change from punishment as public spectacle saw the offender unequivocally marked with the negative sign; the publicity shifted to the trial and justice dissociated itself from execution, trusting autonomous others to do the job (9-10).  E.g., in France, prison administration duties were the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, but responsibility for penal servitude in the convict ships and penal settlements lay with the Ministry of the Navy or the Ministry of the Colonies. "Beyond this distribution of roles operates a theoretical disavowal: do not imagine that the sentences that we judges pass are activated by a desire to punish; they are intended to correct, reclaim, 'cure'; a technique of improvement represses, in the penalty, the strict expiation of evil-doing, and relieves the magistrates of the demeaning task of punishing.  In modern justice and on the part of those who dispense it there is a shame in punishing, which does not always preclude zeal" (10).

Slackening of the hold on the body (10)
-- "One no longer touched the body, or at least as little as possible, and then only to reach something other than the body itself" (11).  -- "The body now serves as an instrument or intermediary: if one intervenes upon it to imprison it, or to make it work, it is in order to deprive the individual of a liberty that is regarded both as a right and as property" (11).  -- "From being an art of unbearable sensations punishment has become an economy of suspended rights" (11). -- "The body and pain are not the ultimate objects of [the law's] punitive action," thus warders, doctors, chaplains, psychiatrists, psychologists, and educationalists have taken over from the executioner (11). -- "Impose penalties free of all pain" (11).

-- "The reduction of these 'thousand deaths' to strict capital punishment defines a whole new morality concerning the act of punishing" (12). -- "At the beginning of the nineteenth...
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