Surveiller et punir Naissance de la Prison Discipline and Punish The Birth of the Prison, Michel FoucaultDiscipline and Punish The Birth of the Prison French Surveiller et punir Naissance de la prison is a 1975 book by the French philosopher Michel Foucault It is an analysis of the social and theoretical mechanisms behind the changes that occurred in Western penal systems during the modern age based on historical documents from France Foucault argues that prison did not become the principal form of punishment just because of the humanitarian concerns of reformists He traces the cultural shifts that led to the predominance of prison via the body and power Prison used by the disciplines new technological powers that can also be found, according to Foucault, in places such as schools, hospitals, and military barracks 1999 1378 391 9789643124328 1378 1382 1385 1388 1392 20 1972 1973 1975 NEW REVIEW it took than a few days to get back to this I hope someone reads it lol I will add only a few additional comments to what I ve already written below and in the comments sections It will be enough and than enough.I came at this book with decades of prejudice built up and it showed in my essentially failed reading of Madness and Civilization I knew that Foucault was a fake and a charlatan before I ever cracked a page So to speak So one can imagine my surprise at discovering that he was, in fact, a philosophical genius of sorts, and that this book though difficult, slow, craggy, like cracking nuts , paragraph by paragraph, was full of insight and sense and interest To all those who are skeptical of opening up a front here, and it is a time consuming front , I have to say that I, too, am a recovering Foucault hater That does not mean that I am persuaded 1 To echo Habermas complaint, Foucault like many of the postmodernists equivocates between irony or literature and serious work and he does not always know the difference himself His verbal cleverness, the frequent use of reversals and antitheses, isocola, polarities, etc , often reveal NOT the underlying truth, but an addiction to illusion and pretense It is rhetorical none of which takes away from the sheer surface brilliance of this book and as a reader of Plato s Theaetetus and Sophist, I fully understand the philosophical and metaphysical implications of the rhetorical in fact, I teach a course on this topic 2 Worse, Foucault equivocates repeatedly on this question that Nathan and I were discussing regarding the law of contradiction Taking pages out of the Philebus of Plato, Foucault loves to talk about the minute parts, exhaustive, continuous, almost infinite divisions and partitions into which his moral continua and the physical continua, like body, as well can be partitioned, divided, apportioned, etc without ever coming out and saying whether or not the division is infinite or not That almost is an equivocation of huge proportions, and it is deceitful One must take a stand 3 Again, much rests in Foucault on his claims about power knowledge But what actually happens in this book, at least is that Foucault suggests the notion that knowledge is a function of power and then seeks to ground this notion with an utterly fraudulent move see my commentary below on induction and then operates from here on out as if his principal point had been established Since very few people will have the time or patience to track the beast the fallacy to its lair he pulls it off and persuades But moves of this sort are by definition sophistical And I have unmasked him At least so far I now have a copy of Power Knowledge, the interviews, and will be interested to see if there is a better justification put forth there though I am skeptical that I will find it These are decisive objections.And yet none of them matter Let me explain If Foucault relied on historical data QUA historical data, then his project would have been an utter failure But my contention is that he uses historical data as myth like Rousseau s story of le bon sauvage in the Second Discourse like the story line in a Utopia or, in Foucault s case, in a fictionalized dystopia It does not matter whether the history is true or not Even when he relies on real facts, they are falsified in their proportionality Minor figures are treated as turning points of great moment , incidents that no one would remember and quite rightly are treated as symbols of deeper truths a use, or rather, an abuse of history that goes back to Dilthey, I believe all these are clues, in my opinion, that Foucault did not intend us or at least, in his lucid moments would not have intended us to take his history as historical it is simply the plot he weaves, a pseudo history made up of bits and pieces of the Real, perhaps , but nonetheless , that forms the warp and matrix of a philosophical nightmare that he is seeing beneath the pattern of modernity and it is a nightmare that is anything but fictional Indeed, the events of the past 15 years, the advent of the national security state , the surveillance state , the increasing, encroaching normalization of the Schmittian State of Exception the Society of the Spectacle not only under Bush, but now continuing under a Liberal Presidency, all show that Foucault was prescient Thus, those historians who criticize him for being ahistorical are missing the point entirely.Now of course, it was Foucault s obligation to indicate clearly to the reader that his account is only history as such , and I do not believe though I could be wrong that he does so Maybe the postmodernist in him thinks irony is the default position, and that he doesn t have to say anything , or maybe he was not quite sure himself but that is, in the final analysis, a relatively minor criticism Just as an aside, I believe that I can prove that Rousseau has given his readers a massive hint that his account of the noble savage in the Second Discourse is, indeed, a myth and not to be taken as history a topic which is controversial in the literature on Rousseau and that he adopts this method from Plato I thought once I would publish a paper on this, but as Rousseau is outside my field, and I would have had to read and master a bibliography outside my area of knowledge, I never did PREVIOUS COMMENTS I must pause here and add what I believe might be a comment of some significance for I have found I believe a major flaw in MF s thinking.I no longer think it is just to criticize Foucault for a lack of historical accuracy for I do not think that he intends his work to be taken as historical , despite appearances I will develop this idea at greater length when I have finished the book But I need first to take up an issue that I had raised in the comment section several weeks ago and which concerns Foucault s famous thesis about Power and Knowledge.In my opening comment , I showed that Foucault had misinterpreted pp 41f the ancient notion of the ordeal , which he takes as creating truth, rather than simply reflecting it He simply doesn t know his history well enough, and his position is foolish.Now, in the chapter on Panopticism 225ff , he argues that the empirical sciences were born, in the later Middle Ages, out of the politico juridico processes of investigation exemplified by the Inquisition These investigative techniques were actually developed, he says, in the 12th 13th centuries as a method for establishing truth , and thus replacing the older method of creating truth through the joust or the ordeal.This is absurd The empirical sciences were born out of the development of the theory and practice of induction See A.C Crombie, though I can supply a wealth of material on this , which went back to the time of Roger Bacon, who got it via the Arabs from the Greek Commentary tradition that is, from the C.A.G developed these ideas in the context of Aristotle s distinction between analysis and synthesis in geometry The idea of analysis which is clearly explained at the very beginning of Aristotle s Physics I, however, was derived from the Socratic dialectic itself a development of the sophistic rhetorical dialectic of the late 5th cen , which is analytical and consciously so , not synthetic The theory of ideas was then postulated by Plato to explain why analysis works and does not lead to an infinite division This is incontrovertible Then, to adduce Francis Bacon, as Foucault does on p 226, is really a blunder, for Francis Bacon was actually one of the very few people who recognized that induction had its roots in the Socratic dialectic see Novum Organon, 1.105 Foucault simply doesn t know what he is talking about To seek to reduce analysis to a juridico investigative root is simply ignorance But if this postulated origin falls, then so too falls his theory that knowledge is simply power That said I am really impressed by this book and think it is a major work, and I m quite embarrassed to have missed its importance all these years Consider the above a small attempt to make amends in my typically Socratic fashion, of course. This book begins with a bang in fact, a series of bangs That is the point, you see We need to be shocked about what is, after all, our relatively recent past We too easily forget that there was a time when people like us actually span back in history for nearly as far as the mind could imagine Now, we struggle to believe that people who lived 20 or 30 years ago where quite like us even when we ourselves were those people Today we cast off selves and disown past selves like our endlessly cheap clothes cheaper to buy than to wash, as someone pointed out recently or like snakes and their skins, cicadas and their chrysalises For, as Foucault points out here, the point of history isn t for us to understand the past that is dead and gone and has only the meaning we can give it from our vantage point the point of history is to provide the narrative that helps us to understand the present.I want to start with one of the quotes that go off with a bang at the start of this book that shock us by how distant our world seems moved from that of a few hundred years ago in 1584 the assassin of William of Orange was abandoned to what seems like an infinity of vengeance On the first day, he was taken to the square where he found a cauldron of boiling water, in which was submerged the arm with which he had committed the crime The next day the arm was cut off, and, since it fell at his feet, he was constantly kicking it up and down the scaffold on the third day, red hot pincers were applied to his breasts and the front of his arm on the fourth day, the pincers were applied similarly on the back of his arm and on his buttocks and thus, consecutively, this man was tortured for eighteen days On the last day, he was put to the wheel and maillot beaten with a wooden club After six hours, he was still asking for water, which was not given him Finally the police magistrate was begged to put an end to him by strangling, so that his soul should not despair and be lost The spectacle of eighteen days of public torture seems extraordinary to us Perhaps what is most shocking is the level of vengeance that is taken on the body of the guilty man A transgression of the law and the law at the time was represented in the body and in the will of the king was equally revenged on the body of the transgressor The problem was that this expression of state power was far too often arbitrary and grossly overwrought As in the example above, the vengeance of the state seems to know no bounds However, and I guess ironically too, the state king was also able to pardon that is, reserved the right to decide when and how the law might be applied and this arbitrary law effectively undermined the state s own moral authority.We like to see our world as one on a kind of slow incline towards progress And, let s face it, it would be hard to read the description above and not think that from that particular south pole of inhumanity no matter which way we might have gone would have probably been up.Our particular path up from that nadir was to decided that it was unreasonable to punish people s bodies, that what we needed was to punish or correct, rather their souls Now, this is only partly true, for as Guant namo Bay and Abu Ghraib prove, we still like to get off on torture All the same, there was a clear shift in policy away from torture of bodies towards using punishment as means of making an example of the criminal and also perhaps being able to reform them The focus shifted to the souls of the wrong doers but also on the social consequences of their crimes It wasn t any longer a matter of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth , instead you might get punished for a crime that might hardly harm any one single person, but have large social consequences Punishments were increasingly seen as ways of improving both the individual and society and therefore punishments tended to need to be seen as being just rather than an arbitrary expression of the will of the ruler That is, punishments could no longer be excessive in the way they had been before They had to match the crime The punishment had to make risking doing the crime simply not worth it The punishment also had to encourage the criminal to live a good life, that is, the punishment ought to make the crime abhorrent to the criminal That is, punishment needed a pedagogical function it needs to teach the criminal the right way to live one s life I couldn t help, throughout this book, thinking of re education camps and how we imagine changing a label from re education to rehabilitation can allow us believe what we do is so much better than what those nasty communists did To understand how to be good requires a particular kind of knowledge Knowledge, then, is a direct consequence of power, of state power and true knowledge is aligned with the exercise of power Ok, that might sound like rubbish but I think it is a remarkably interesting point To punish someone now means two things, you have some idea of what is the right way to live a life and that if you inflict a certain punishment on a person that punishment will thereby make them a better person Ever since Socrates the idea has been that if someone understands the good then they must also act in accordance with that knowledge Well, if people are acting in ways that are not in accordance with the laws and the laws are, naturally enough, to those who make them, completely rational and totally in accordance with the good then the role of punishment isn t so much to get revenge on those who break the laws, but rather, to help them to better understand the good that is, to help them to become rational agents in society Punishment is about re educating those who transgress society s laws because only those without reason would ever break these laws Knowledge and Law and therefore also Power are all instances of the same thing.There is a wonderful bit in Stephen Fry s Moab is My Washpot where he says that having been at an English Public School meant that he had much less difficulty adjusting to prison life than other people That a boarding school was run in much the same way that a prison is run and so it all seemed quite normal to him This is Foucault s point exactly, I think.I need to talk about how you change people s souls now and therefore I need to talk about Foucault s most fascinating metaphor that of Bentham s Panopticon The Panopticon was designed to be an ideal prison and it was literally ideal, never actually having been built The point is that the ideal often helps explain the actual world It is probably easier if you just Google Panopticon but the basic idea is to build a prison in which all of the cells are in the circumference of a circular building while at the centre of the circular prison there is a tower Inside the tower is a guard or citizens who have dropped by to see that the prisoners are reforming The cells on the circumference of the circular building all have two windows one facing into the centre of the building and the other on the opposite wall looking out The second window looking out provides light into the cell the window facing the tower means that the prisoner can be watched at any time of the day or night by the guard The whole thing is designed so that the prisoner just doesn t know if or when the guard is watching but the prisoner does know that there is no time when the guard will definitely not be watching It is all a bit like God constantly watching to constantly provide you with a conscience or what is the next best thing to a conscience, as you act as if you are doing right for its own sake, even though you are doing right just in case you get caught doing wrong.There was also the problem of having lots of criminals in one place that needed to be addressed so as to stop that one place becoming a university of criminality So, prisoners were not allowed to talk to one another And they were kept in isolation for long periods of time All the better to allow the voice of the prisoner s conscience to work on them and thereby to help teach them right from wrong.The secret to right moral action, then, is than just the relationship between knowledge and power but also of proper surveillance And surveillance now dominates our lives And not just the cameras that are everywhere filming our every movement But also in our obsession with tests in schools and performance reviews at work To Foucault, the panopticon was not just a model for the ideal prison, but also for the ideal hospital, factory and school He points out that this surveillance has meant turning our lives into texts There was a time when only the heroes of our world had books written about them today we are our high school report cards, our credit ratings, our performance review results, our medical history cards.One of the things Foucault does that I find utterly fascinating is to look at the etymology of words and to show how earlier meanings hang around the word s usage today like ghosts In this book he points out that the word discipline has always had the dual meaning it has today a discipline as an area of study and discipline as in being forced to behave correctly This seems terribly important to me.Like in Orwell s 1984 the terrifying vision here is that power always acts in ways that are essentially inhuman I m certainly not advocating going back to a time when killing a king might involve you in 18 days of unspeakable torture but then, one has only to read The Shock Doctrine The Rise of Disaster Capitalism to know we use torture today in ways that would make O Brien blush with pride We are shocked when we learn of the surveillance used by the Stasi and rightly so but we actively sign up so that international corporations can monitor every single item we purchase so as to better sell to us because they might agree to giving us a free chocolate bar every year or so But then, what is the point of freedom and privacy if you can t trade it for some chocolate This is a very disturbing book it is also a must read. Discipline makes individuals it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exerciseMichel Foucault, Discipline and PunishI ve had this book for nearly twenty years on myself Before a couple weeks ago I never quite found myself in the right mood for a French post structural look at power, prisons, and punishment It is interesting reading this and thinking about how influential Foucault was in the modern criticisms of the penal system, and various areas of control schools, hospitals, psychiatric facilities, the military and prisons.I didn t realize until I read the prologue that the Disciple part of the title was originally Surveiller Watch et punir Punish It made sense back in the day to use discipline, but given the giant NSA observation issues, I kinda hope they consider changing the title at some point back to some variant of watch That was a surprise part of the book that isn t communicated by discipline, and a part that is VERY relevant to the world we exist in Anyway, I could probably come up with some high falutin reason to like or not like this book, but honestly, I kinda liked it, just not enough to put forward HUGE efforts of defense or evangelism There were some of the obvious issues with a lot of postmodern historical books big ideas, radical ways to look at things , but the damn flag is pretty high and pretty big and the pole is thin and isn t buried very deep But God love Foucault and his big poles So, I still want to read his sexy books, his book on madness, and his book on the clinic, so I guess that makes this a four star book I don t want to read all of his stuff tomorrow, but I want to read but later, when nobody s watching. I ve read this book three times First time was in undergraduate, second time was in law school, third time was last week I can honestly say that my understanding of this work has grown with each reading, but that growth in comprehension has come from my reading of other books either discussing or related to Discipline and Punish.Specifically, I would recommend Jurgen Habermas s critique of Foucault, although I now forget which book of his contains his critique I would also recommend Goffman s Asylums and Sykes The Society of the Prison as works which can illuminate Foucault s oft dense prose.Foucault s main thesis is that the transistion of society into modernity has resulted in institutions which are increasingly devoted to the control of the inmate s time The instituions use this control of time to develop discipline Discipline is then used to both reinforce the strength of the instituion and also to expand the reach of institution s into the community.As other reviewers have noted, this book isn t really about Prisons Rather, the development of the modern prison represents the pinnacle of the relationship between power and discipline Foucault leads up to his discussion of the prison by examining developments in other instituions the work shop, the school and the barracks.I really would encourage admirers of this work to read Goffman s Asylums The two books overlap to a considerable degree, but they both complement one another. Foucault begins this book by recounting the fate of a man called Damien the regicide, who attempted to assassinate King Louis XV of France in 1757 He was publicly tortured for hours, beaten, stabbed and crushed only to be quartered by horses at last Foucault says that Public executions and scenes like this were common and happened every once in a while for those who were accused of heinous crimes This practice, perfectly inhuman and brutish, was officially sanctioned just two centuries ago Criminals were subjected to torture, flogging, beating, humiliation and beheading in public But the most surprising thing is that all this ended rather suddenly in the 19th century, which is when the modern prison system was born Foucault is meticulous He inspects each and everything from philosophical and psychological point of view He disrobes the myth and romance of history only to show us a picture that is as real as it is shocking For the most part of reading it, I was not entirely sure what Foucault was coming at, he dropped hints here and there but importantly, he intends to enable us to see for ourselves All his works are an attempt to understand the relation between power, culture and the individual Modern prison is the model for control of an entire society What happens behind the prison walls becomes so distant for the ones outside it, that they have no empathy for the man who suffers in solitary confinement or sleeps on cold prison floors His sufferings become none of our concern There is a dehumanizing effect that the modern prison has on the criminal, an effect that expels any chance of sympathy or pity for the prisoner He fades rather quickly in society s collective memory Such was not the case, Foucault says, back when men were tortured in streets and executed brutally Power now looks kind, but isn t In past it wasn t kind and therefore it could encourage open rebellion So Prison system, doesn t only takes away the spectacle of torture and murder from the streets, it crushes dissent and shackles the conscience of the society There is much to this book than I could possibly explain here Taught and recommended in universities around the world, this book is a timeless classic Since it is not an easy book to read, I d recommend that the new reader starts slowly and take it chapter by chapter You can agree with his thesis or you could disagree, but there no doubt that Foucault was a genius. Librarian Note An Alternate Cover For This Edition Can Be Found HereIn This Brilliant Work, The Most Influential Philosopher Since Sartre Suggests That Such Vaunted Reforms As The Abolition Of Torture And The Emergence Of The Modern Penitentiary Have Merely Shifted The Focus Of Punishment From The Prisoner S Body To His Soul In many ways a response to the French government s penal codes of the 60s and 70s but also a continuation of Foucault s work in Madness and Civilization, the influence of DP can be seen everywhere from Spielberg s Minority Report to Enemy of the State to Ted Conover s Newjack and most if not all critiques of surveillant governments It s also a horrifying read, starting out as it does with an account of the ritualistic execution of a regicide, which Foucault compares favorably to the prisons of the Enlightenment The general thrust is that under the guise of humanism, Europeans decided on punishing the soul rather than the body This they accomplished first by quite theatrically monitoring prisoners and delinquents, and eventually by having prisoners monitor themselves, saving the government all the work.I personally don t think Discipline and Punish is the strongest of Foucault s works, though Partly, I think he misunderstands the nature of physical violence His strategy here and in MC is to lay out a pretty sinister historical transition in the way states used their power, passing over counterexamples that might disprove his point Australia, anyone , and then allow the reader to assume that the trend he has identified continues to this very momentYou re supposed to wonder, is the videocamera in my bank gasp part of the Panopticon Have I been deprived of my free will and become a tool of the State Harold Bloom rightly complains of Foucault that he tended to forget that the historical ironies he uncovered were just metaphors, and aren t as all encompassing as his many followers in academe suppose Mikey s History of Sexuality books are much closely reasoned, or at least Introduction is and what I ve read of Uses of Pleasure The problem is that you can carp all day about DP but you will continue to see it everywhere, long after you ve set it down That makes it an amazing book. Is the world turning into a panopticon in which everyone of us cannot evade the gaze of whoever occupying the central point Though finding this book to be making a powerful argument, I do have doubts as to whether surveillance only without corporal violence could impose discipline in other words, whether the observed really interiorize the system of surveillance , and also I doubt as to whether the systems of micro power really fits into a bigger top down power hierarchy I like the example of the school Foucault used, but I personally think that students have certain power over the teachers as the teachers over the students I don t think power is as top down as Foucault describes My favorite quote The ideal point of penality today would be an indefinite discipline an interrogation without end, an investigation that would be extended without limit to a meticulous and ever analytical observation, a judgement that would at the same time be the constitution of a file that was never closed, the calculated leniency of a penalty that would be interlaced with the ruthless curiosity of an examination. This book rearranged my brain I have never read something that met my intuition half way, and then expanded my vision beyond all critical capacities I knew before I will never conceive of power, structures, knowledge, statistics, or my cock the same way again His anti humanitarian, empirical, and nonuniversal critiques that follow the money and the violence are the perfect medicine for people who have been reading saggy assed media studies and cultural studies for too long Saved my life.