Contemporary society is a disciplinary society and is necessary to have.
In Foucault’s book, Discipline and Punish, he explains the gradual change of 17th century punishments compared to the modern more gentle way of creating discipline and punishing people who commit crimes within society. Today’s society is based on norms that we have all adopted from birth, norms of public behavior and interaction; this has subconsciously created our disciplined society. In this paper I will refer to an example of imprisoning someone who committed a crime. I will examine ways that contemporary society is a disciplined society as Foucault described; and given my example, it will demonstrate our need for it and how disciplinary society can help contemporary society.
According to Foucault a disciplined society uses three main techniques for control. Control, in this context, should be seen more as a way to ensure safety rather than a way to limit freedom and oppress the public. Foucault refers to these techniques as means of corrective training; hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and examination. Whether we think of it or not, these techniques have been used for centuries by many institutions, organizations, and undoubtedly our very own government. First, hierarchical observation for Foucault is an exercise of discipline that is part of a system that allows a way of control. It is a mode of surveillance, which in turn forms the disciplinary society. Hierarchical observation may seem like something that is more associated with a dictatorship, where decisions only come from one top person of power or in the 17th century where kings decided what to do with delinquents. For example, in the 17th century, when someone committed a crime they were hanged, beheaded, or humiliated in front of the public; this was a form of government revenge. This disciplinary society has changed into beginning with an observation by the hierarchy, as Foucault explains. A judgment on whether the individual is misbehaving would be the first step in the disciplinary process. Second, Foucault describes normalizing judgment, where punishment takes part in what defines good from evil. Some might ask who decides what’s good and what’s evil? The hierarchy would define evil as anything that would harm the public welfare. Normalizing judgment may, sometimes, be seen as a technique used to brainwash people to believe what the hierarchy wants people to believe. For example, in a 17th century society, normalizing judgment was in fact used to enforce a belief, whether it be religion or law, among the people. It instilled values that were seen to be good by to the people in power, not necessarily by the majority. The normalized judgment, according to Foucault, has changed into a more civil type of society where individuals have freedom for themselves until they misbehave, harming the social security. Third, examination for Foucault represents “the deployment of force and the establishment of truth” (184); or hierarchical observation and normalizing judgment, which in turn makes it possible to classify and punish the misbehaved. According to Badiou, an “event” marks a rupture in the train of knowledge and opinion, which characterizes a being. This step examines the truth of whether any change or “event” has happened, modifying an individuals thinking and determining whether the individual has regained his or her normalized judgments. This “event” changes a humans view on life. In the 17th century society, once released from torture people had humiliating memories and were expected to never commit their offense again. The hierarchy believed that torture would create this “event’ in the persons mind and ultimately make them a different person. That was the examination an individual committing a crime would be put through in the 17th century. Today, discipline isn’t quiet different, it’s just not as physical and violent.
The contemporary United States is all...
Cited: Badiou, Alain. Ethics : an essay on the understanding of evil. London New York: Verso, 2002.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline & Punish: The birth of the prison. [Trans. A. Sheridan, 1977.]. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1995.
Havel, Václav. Summer meditations. Toronto: Vintage Books, 1993.
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