Foucault and Truffaut: Power and Social Control in French Society

Topics: Prison, Sociology, Michel Foucault Pages: 2 (727 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Foucault and Truffaut: Power and Social Control in French Society

Both Michel Foucault and Truffaut's depiction of a disciplinary society are nearly identical. But Truffaut's interpretation sees more room for freedom within the disciplinary society. The difference stems from Foucault's belief that the social control in disciplinary pervades all elements of life and there is no escape from this type of control. Foucault's work deals mostly with "power" and his conception of it. Like Nietzsche, Foucault sees power not as a fixed quantity of physical force, but instead as a stream of energy flowing through all aspects of society, its power harnesses itself in regulating the behavior of individuals, the systems of knowledge, a societies institutions, and every interaction between people.

Foucault in Discipline and Punish, applies this notion of power in tracing the rise of the prison system in France and the rise of other coercive institutions such as monasteries, the army, mental asylums, and other technologies. In his work Foucault exposes how seemingly benign or even reformist institutions such as the modern prison system (versus the stocks, and scaffolds) are technologies that are typical of the modern, painless, friendly, and impersonal coercive tools of the modern world. In fact the success of these technologies stems from their ability to appear unobtrusive and humane. These prisons Foucault goes on to explain like many institutions in post 1700th century society isolate those that society deems abnormal. This isolation seeks to attack the souls of people in order to dominate them similar to how the torture and brutality of pre 1700th century society sought to dominate the physical bodies of prisoners. In Foucault's interpretation freedom from the pervasive influence of "power" is impossible. Because his conception of "power" exists not just in individual institutions of society like prisons but instead exists in the structure of...
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