Discipline and Punish: a Critical Review. This Is a Summary of Michel Foucault's Seminal Work on the History of Criminal Punishment and Social Discipline as It Transformed from Punitive to Correctional Models During the

Topics: Prison, Michel Foucault, Panopticon Pages: 8 (2903 words) Published: January 22, 2013
Discipline and Punish: a critical review
This is a summary of Michel Foucault's seminal work on the history of criminal punishment and social discipline as it transformed from punitive to correctional models during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. -------------------------------------------------




The main ideas of Discipline and Punish can be grouped according to its four parts: torture, punishment, discipline and prison. [edit]Torture
Foucault begins by contrasting two forms of penalty: the violent and chaotic public torture of Robert-François Damiens, who was convicted of attempted regicide in the mid-18th century, and the highly regimented daily schedule for inmates from an early 19th century prison (Mettray). These examples provide a picture of just how profound the changes in western penal systems were after less than a century. Foucault wants the reader to consider what led to these changes. How did western culture shift so radically? He believes that the question of the nature of these changes is best asked by assuming that they weren't used to create a more humanitarian penal system, nor to more exactly punish or rehabilitate, but as part of a continuing trajectory of subjection. Foucault wants to tie scientific knowledge and technological development to the development of the prison to prove this point. He defines a "micro-physics" of power, which is constituted by a power that is strategic and tactical rather than acquired, preserved or possessed. He explains that power and knowledge imply one another, as opposed to the common belief that knowledge exists independently of power relations (knowledge is always contextualized in a framework which makes it intelligible, so the humanizing discourse of psychiatry is an expression of the tactics of oppression).[2] That is, the ground of the game of power isn't won by 'liberation', because liberation already exists as a facet of subjection. "The man described for us, whom we are invited to free, is already in himself the effect of a subjection much more profound than himself."[3] The problem for Foucault is in some sense a theoretical modelling which posits a soul, an identity (the use of soul being fortunate since 'identity' or 'name' would not properly express the method of subjection—e.g., if mere materiality were used as a way of tracking individuals then the method of punishment would not have switched from torture to psychiatry) which allows a whole materiality of prison to develop. In What is an Author? Foucault also deals with notion of identity, and its use as a method of control, regulation, and tracking. He begins by examining public torture and execution. He argues that the public spectacle of torture and execution was a theatrical forum the original intentions of which eventually produced several unintended consequences. Foucault stresses the exactitude with which torture is carried out, and describes an extensive legal framework in which it operates to achieve specific purposes. Foucault describes public torture as ceremony. The intended purposes were:

* To make the secret public (according to Foucault the investigation was kept entirely secret even from the accused). The secret of the investigation and the conclusion of the magistrates was justified by the publicity of the torture. * To show the effect of investigation on confession. (According to Foucault torture could occur during the investigation, because partial proofs meant partial guilt. If the torture failed to elicit a confession then the investigation was stopped and innocence assumed. A confession legitimized the investigation and any torture that...
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