Focault- Discipline and Punish

Topics: Prison, Sociology, Michel Foucault Pages: 7 (2381 words) Published: November 22, 2012
Table of Contents

Brief Overview2
Main arguments of discipline and Punish4
Prisons as part of civilisation4
The Body and Soul5
Evaluation of Discipline and Punish6

M. Foucault. 1975. Discipline and Punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Random House Inc. Below is an in depth book review of Discipline and Punish, The Birth of the Prison. The author who compiled the analysis on this is Michel Foucault, whom provided enlightenment on many different aspects of sociology and philosophy- many which are still immensely relevant to societies today. I will be using this book review to channel an outline of Foucault’s work, viewpoints and purposes as such. Along with this I will include my personal critique of my literary experience of the book. I will consider important factors of logic, coherence, evidence, expertise and originality. These specified fields are all crucial to useful and meaningful sociological theories. In brief, my aim is to clarify the argument presented by Foucault and provide my account of its validity. Brief Overview:

Michel Foucault’s, Discipline and Punish, provides the reader of the historical timeline which ends at the institution of imprisonment that most modern societies have adopted today. The just of his intentions for the book are presented in the first section. Much of this includes his aim which is to trace the penal system back to its roots in order to define and identify its significance in the present. These roots begin in the seventeenth century. Here public torture and execution prevailed as the form of punishment. As aspects of society changed, especially power structures, so did this system of punishment- much like in an evolutionary manner. At this point it is probably important to highlight that a better alternative to the concept of the penal timeline, is rather a cycle- thus making visible the state it was in at birth and plotting its journey to maturity. The model of the prison is not yet a comprehendible result or solution in the beginning sections. Punishments were rather inhumane and gruesome methods of torture and execution which were “public spectacles”. The point of this was the solidification of the power figures amongst their people. This notion of power stirred amongst people who were ultimately discontent with the inefficiency of these structures. Whilst attempting to resolve this, a “reform” was created. Sadly, the preoccupation of the reform blinded people to the inhumanity, suffering and pain being brought upon these so-called criminals. Following this we see the transition to private and secret forms of punishment which was cut-off from public visibility. Coercive practices resulted in submissive criminals, with credit given to new techniques established by adapting and altering out-dated methods. The separation and the shift of focus from the body to the soul were early defining factors of the modern system. These also form an immensely important theme that is recurrent throughout the book. Foucault’s theoretical cycle of the penal system then moves on to preparation of criminals for their lives after incarceration and attempts to reintroduce these people back into society as respectable civilians. Considering noted critiques on this section, it remains unclear as to whether this was successful at its time of occurrence. An issue arising along with this stage is that of judgement- who is qualified to pass judgement and what standards are used for comparison? Finally, in the closing sections of the book we reach the heart of the book where we see the introduction of the first prison- highly influenced by the panoptic, and the penultimate stage which Foucault dates February 22, 1840. This date marks the success of the first carceral system which “perfected” the failures and short-comings of all the previous phases. Currently this institution has embedded itself in...
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