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Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

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Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. In 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. Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. In 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.


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Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. In 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. Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. In 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.

30 review for Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison = Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the 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and theoretical mechanisms behind the changes that occurred in Western penal systems during the modern age based on historical documents from France.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 humanita Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison = Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the 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. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و ششم ماه آگوست سال 1999میلادی عنوان: مراقبت و تنبیه: تولد زندان؛ اثر: میشل فوکو؛ ترحمه: نیکو سرخوش؛ افشین جهاندیده؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، نشر نی، 1378، در 391ص، مصور، شابک 9789643124328؛ چاپ دوم 1378، چاپ چهارم 1382، چاپ ششم 1385، چاپ هشتم 1388، چاپ یازدهم 1392؛ کتابنامه به صورت زیرنویس، نمایه دارد، موضوع زندان، انضباط، ثواب و عقاب از نویسندگان فرانسوی - سده 20م با عنوان فرعی: «زایش زندان»، عنوان کتابی از «میشل فوکو» فیلسوف فرانسوی است، «فوکو» در سالهای 1972میلادی و 1973میلادی، سخنرانی‌هایی در «فرانسه»، و «برزیل»، شامل «بررسی جامعهٔ جزایی و قدرت قضایی» انجام دادند؛ همان پژوهش در سال 1975میلادی به انتشار کتاب «مراقبت و تنبیه: زایش زندان» انجامید؛ در این کتاب، «فوکو» دودمان شکل گیری کالبد و ذهن را، در چارچوب نظام‌های مراقبتی، و انضباطی قدرت، مورد پژوهش قرار می‌دهند، و مدعی هستند، که در نهادهایی همچون «مدارس»، «زندانها»، «بیمارستان‌ها»، و «کارگاه‌ها»، تکنیک‌های انضباطی ویژه، به کار می‌رود، و در چهارچوب آنها، مقررات حاکم بر رفتار، و سلوک، اقدامات مراقبتی، و شیوه‌ های نظارت بر آنها تدوین، و به اجرا درمی‌آید؛ زندگی «دانش آموزان»، «سربازان»، «بیماران»، و «زندانیان»، در معرض مراقبت و نظارت، و تهیه ی گزارش قرار می‌گیرد، و رفتار بهنجار مورد تشویق، و رفتار نامطلوب، با اقدامات تنبیهی، مواجه می‌شوند؛ هدف غایی مراقبت و نظارت و انضباط، بهنجار نمودن فرد، و از میان بردن بی انضباطی‌های اجتماعی، و روانی، و سرانجام تربیت انسان‌هایی مطیع، و سودآور، برای جامعه‌ است؛ فوکو می‌گویند: «در شیوه‌ های مراقبتی، و کیفری ماقبل مدرن، روش‌های وحشیانه شکنجه، و آزار بدنی، به کار می‌رفت؛ اما به تدریج از سده ی هیجدهم میلادی به بعد، مجازات‌های بدنی، جای خود را، به مجازات‌های ظریف روانی داد؛ از آن تاریخ مجازات‌های جدید، روح را آماج یورش خود قرار داد، مجموعه ی کیفرشناسی جدید، به سوی مراقبت فراگیر، بازگردانده شد؛ از آن تاریخ به بعد، زندان‌ها، مدارس، و آسایشگاه‌ های روانی، به منظومه‌ هایی از نظارت فراگیر، تبدیل شدند، که فرد را، در معرض مراقبت دائمی، و بدون وقفه، قرار می‌داد، و به تهیه پرونده، و گزارش‌هایی تفصیلی، از رفتار فرد، و تدوین شناخت شناسانه از آن داده‌ ها، یاری می‌رساند»؛ پایان نقل در این منظومه که «فوکو» آنرا «میکروسکوپ قدرت» می‌نامند، گفتمان علمی، اجتماعی، و کیفیات سیاسی قدرت، و ذهنیت فردی، با هم تلاقی می‌کنند، و به صورتی ظریف، و پیچیده، بر یکدیگر تأثیر می‌گذارند تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 15/09/1399هجری خورشیدی ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    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 endless 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 'mailloté' [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 Guantánamo 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 more 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 more 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David Withun

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  4. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “Discipline 'makes' individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise.” ― Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish I'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 p “Discipline 'makes' individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise.” ― Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish I'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 more... but later, when nobody's watching.

  5. 5 out of 5

    AC

    NEW REVIEW [it took more 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 more 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 a NEW REVIEW [it took more 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 more 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 more 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: http://www.amazon.com/History-Science...), 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.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commenta... which 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....)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Abubakar Mehdi

    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. C 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 more 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 more 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    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 more 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 Goff 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 more 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lex

    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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Conrad

    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 D&P 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 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 D&P 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 M&C 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... moment! You'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 more 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 D&P but you will continue to see it everywhere, long after you've set it down. That makes it an amazing book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Yu

    Is the world turning into a panopticon in which everyone of us cannot evade the gaze of whoever that is occupying the central point? I find this book to be making a powerful argument, but I do have doubts as to whether surveillance by itself (without corporal violence) could impose discipline ( in other words, whether the observed really interiorizes the system of surveillance). I also doubt as to whether the systems of micro-power really fits into a bigger top-down power hierarchy. In the examp Is the world turning into a panopticon in which everyone of us cannot evade the gaze of whoever that is occupying the central point? I find this book to be making a powerful argument, but I do have doubts as to whether surveillance by itself (without corporal violence) could impose discipline ( in other words, whether the observed really interiorizes the system of surveillance). I also doubt as to whether the systems of micro-power really fits into a bigger top-down power hierarchy. In the example of the school for instance, I think that students have certain power over the teachers just as the teachers have 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 more 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."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    This book made me think I must be getting older. Why? Because I used to enjoy trying to parse the unnecessarily complex and obtuse sentences of French intellectuals and now I seem to lack the patience. (A glorious example: "The moment that saw the transition from historico-ritual mechanisms for the formation of individuality to the scientifico-disciplinary mechanisms, when the normal took over from the ancestral, and measurement from status, thus substituting for the individuality of the memorab This book made me think I must be getting older. Why? Because I used to enjoy trying to parse the unnecessarily complex and obtuse sentences of French intellectuals and now I seem to lack the patience. (A glorious example: "The moment that saw the transition from historico-ritual mechanisms for the formation of individuality to the scientifico-disciplinary mechanisms, when the normal took over from the ancestral, and measurement from status, thus substituting for the individuality of the memorable man that of the calculable man, that moment when the sciences of man became possible is the moment when a new technology of power and a new political anatomy of the body were implemented.") Oh, how we pine for our free-er days of savagery! All that aside, Foucault seems to do an incredibly meticulous job of tracing the history of discipline and punishment. He takes the reader from medieval tortures and public executions on up through today's modern prison-industrial complex. As Marx predicted capitalism's eventual undoing of itself, Foucault seems to suggest that the prison itself will become obsolete, thereby being replaced by a series of ever more technical disciplinary apparatuses supplied by the likes of fields better suited for controlling/shaping the individual (sociology, psychology/psychiatry, education, etc.). Other than providing physical safety by removing the dangerous individual from his fellow citizens, we still seem to have very little additional insight into the benefits or preferred goals of incarceration. We still seem just as split on whether purely punitive measures are justified or whether rehabilitation is truly possible. The prison seems to mirror the very same social constructs we use to discipline and control ourselves--regimented schedules and timetables; clearly defined responses and roles; meaning, productivity, and avoidance of temptation through labor; etc. At one point, Foucault points out the arbitrary nature of penalization almost exactly split down the class divides (those who meet out justice and bring suits belonging to one class, and those who suffer punishment and commit crimes belonging to another; the arbitrary part being to which class and circumstances one is born). I get the feeling that, like me, Mikey also requested a replica panopticon in the form of a cake in honor of his 12th birthday. The difference is in how we dealt with the disappointment of not getting such a cake. I shed a tear or two and played some Nintendo. But he didn't have Super Mario Brothers as a distraction, and thus he theorizes as such: "Our society is one not of spectacle, but of surveillance; under the surface of images, one invests bodies in depth; behind the great abstraction of exchange, there continues the meticulous, concrete training of useful forces; the circuits of communication are the supports of an accumulation and a centralization of knowledge; the play of signs defines the anchorages of power; it is not that the beautiful totality of the individual is amputated, repressed, or altered by our social order, it is rather that the individual is carefully fabricated in it, according to a whole technique of forces and bodies." And so, what are we left with? A court system that defines "offences" as that which the (nonviolent) accused sees as a vital life: "the lack of a home as vagabondage, the lack of a master as independence, the lack of work as freedom, the lack of a time-table as the fullness of days and nights." A separation between those who judge and those who punish, which gives an inordinate amount of power and mostly unmonitored discretion to those who punish. And an almost perpetual discussion over prison reform, a topic originating with the very first prison. And here in the United States? 2.3 million people in jail. Note: This paperback edition has the worst book cover I've ever seen in my life. ------------------------------------------------------- Words I Learned While Reading This Book: anamnesis | dyad | teratological | saturnalia | suzerainty ----------------------------------------------- 11/12/19 Update: I woke up a morning or two ago and thought to myself how much funnier it would have been if my review had simply read: This is the worst BDSM manual ever.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I started it. I didn't finish. And unless I one day find myself in a situation with extremely limited mobility and options, with a great deal of time (read: years) on my hands, it's conceivable that I never will. I'd like to have read this book, since I'm very interested in the topics it addresses, but I don't know that I have the mind, stomach, or patience for Foucault. So while I'd like to have read it, I don't know that I'd like as much to read it, if you get what I'm saying. Well, maybe somed I started it. I didn't finish. And unless I one day find myself in a situation with extremely limited mobility and options, with a great deal of time (read: years) on my hands, it's conceivable that I never will. I'd like to have read this book, since I'm very interested in the topics it addresses, but I don't know that I have the mind, stomach, or patience for Foucault. So while I'd like to have read it, I don't know that I'd like as much to read it, if you get what I'm saying. Well, maybe someday.... It wasn't boring, but it was kind of hard, and as I'm not much of a French Theory type of girl, nor am I particularly Intellectual, every other page I was sort of scratching my little tete and sort of wondering all over again what the point of all this was, and whether it was even possible that there was one. I bet a lot of people'd love this. Plus, anyone who doubts its relevance completely (and not just periodically) should read about the NYPD's new "Sky Watch" tower program. Next time I try this guy, if I do, I'll probably go for the stuff on madness.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elen

    Finally reading Foucault after reading a ton of stuff that was (supposedly) inspired by Foucault made me realize I like Foucault a LOT more than I like people who like Foucault.

  14. 4 out of 5

    muthuvel

    This deeply disturbing work starts with the evolution of modern penal justice system from the public spectacle of gruesome tortures and executions pertaining to the earlier 17th and 18th centuries. Foucault argues, with his rich historical citations, that the changing to the methods of incarceration to maintain social order marks the shift of subjection and control from individual's anatomy over psyche by means of various schemes of hierarchical observation(surveillance). With architectural figu This deeply disturbing work starts with the evolution of modern penal justice system from the public spectacle of gruesome tortures and executions pertaining to the earlier 17th and 18th centuries. Foucault argues, with his rich historical citations, that the changing to the methods of incarceration to maintain social order marks the shift of subjection and control from individual's anatomy over psyche by means of various schemes of hierarchical observation(surveillance). With architectural figure of 'Panopticon' implemented in prisons enables and exposes the prisoners to being observed, watched upon anytime from the centralized annular watch tower. It felt ineluctable to note from citations provided parallels to major historical movements like Enlightenment or French Revolution. Foucault here also connects the other 'emergent' structures of Enlightenment era such as the militia schools, education system, systematic working patterns in (manu)factories and other institutions with the ways of social control with this evolving form of discipling the crime and punishment. "Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?" What started as a erudite historicity of incarceration and penal practices ends with underscoring the problem and the power of normalization in the mass society making it all the more 'undemocratic' and its further production of knowledge and 'disciplines.' Are we all prisoners of this constructed human reality? Afterall a highly unavoidable read to explore the dynamics of power relations and authority, existing hegemony of the western societies which pretty impact everywhere in these postcolonial postmodern times. Foucault was a mad Genius with an intriguing biography. His influences from youth communist circle, experimentations with homosexuality, recreational stuffs, BDSM, and Nietzsche, Kant, Heidegger, Althusser, Freud, Sade make his books a weird mix of rich intellectual experience. As for me, this is the most approachable Foucault having tried and dropped many of his works.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Miquixote

    This reads like a dystopian novel, albeit with foucault's famously (infamously?) difficult language. First I have to admit that I was probably provoked to read this because Steven Pinker said it was 'unconvincing' in his particularly unconvincing book 'The Better Angels of our Nature'. I was also a bit perplexed how such an apparently unconvincing book (this one) could get over 33, 000 citations on google academic. Also pretty great reviews by the goodreads non-scholars. So you know that strange This reads like a dystopian novel, albeit with foucault's famously (infamously?) difficult language. First I have to admit that I was probably provoked to read this because Steven Pinker said it was 'unconvincing' in his particularly unconvincing book 'The Better Angels of our Nature'. I was also a bit perplexed how such an apparently unconvincing book (this one) could get over 33, 000 citations on google academic. Also pretty great reviews by the goodreads non-scholars. So you know that strange combination kinda got my notice. Anyhow, on to a quick review... SO Foucault's take on the increasing levels of civilization that pinker toots about is that it actually ain't so civilized. Although institutions of 'social care' have expanded immensely they also increased repression of the inmates. But not physically violent repression (that's about as far as Pinker and Foucault agree). But rather rigorous psychological and moral bloodsucking of dignity, freedom, and individuality. Everywhere: military parades, schools, factories, hospitals, workhouses. Necessity of efficiency is the rationale. But Foucault realizes that 'liberal' politics go hand in hand with this regimentation and unending labour. Work is the most efficient form of social control. Nietzsche also said that ( Foucault is most certainly Nietzschean). Foucault realizes here (and apparently in his other works as well) that basic human drives are now considered taboo and he calls us out on our hypocrisy. Modern times are repressed times. Virtually everything is determined by power. Not only are most of us too well 'disciplined' and 'punished' but we are isolated in our cells of various hues and colours and so pervertedly repressed. A veritable dystopia of uncannily real proportions. I can only reccommend you struggle through the language, stop and think about what is being said. Slow down, this one isn't just another notch on your bookshelf: it's that worth it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    The first two chapters are interesting, although his defense of public torture is idiotic. His critique of modern society is a stunning case of postmodern claptrap. My god, prisons are meant to dissuade us from committing crime! You don't say! He essentially says Enlightenment reform was actually insidious and bad for humanity. In this way he is actually a conservative, by calling into question all the reasons for reform. The fact that the left embraced this book, which was a grand critique of l The first two chapters are interesting, although his defense of public torture is idiotic. His critique of modern society is a stunning case of postmodern claptrap. My god, prisons are meant to dissuade us from committing crime! You don't say! He essentially says Enlightenment reform was actually insidious and bad for humanity. In this way he is actually a conservative, by calling into question all the reasons for reform. The fact that the left embraced this book, which was a grand critique of left wing reform ideology, is just another reason why the conservatives triumphed in the age of postmodernism, when leftists became their own worst enemy. Internal debate is good, but without a moral compass and faith in reform, then you are lost. I think/hope the left is regaining this and abandoning the poisons of postmodernism and its hand-maiden moral relativism. Simply put, this is a nihilistic work if you follow it to its conclusion, and nihilism serves no end. Read Locke, Rousseau, and just about anyone else if you can.

  17. 5 out of 5

    William

    Discipline and Punish is a magnificent, deeply unnerving, and ultimately utterly fascinating document. Here, the incomparable Foucault provides a structural and social examination of the function of disciplinary action and detainment. While the verbiage can be dense and elaborate, it's nevertheless such valuable writing and theory to ignore. This is a supremely observant critical reevaluation of the interacting systems and subsystems at work within modern societal infrastructure. Discipline and Punish is a magnificent, deeply unnerving, and ultimately utterly fascinating document. Here, the incomparable Foucault provides a structural and social examination of the function of disciplinary action and detainment. While the verbiage can be dense and elaborate, it's nevertheless such valuable writing and theory to ignore. This is a supremely observant critical reevaluation of the interacting systems and subsystems at work within modern societal infrastructure.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Foucault's Discipline and Punish is a bit of a tough read. Perhaps that's due to his derivative thinking, perhaps to the translation; regardless, the book presents to me as a dissection of the construction, maintenance, and exercise of state power as it relates to the penal system. Here Foucault renders some interesting points; most significant to me is the notion of the penal system as virtual cycle. If I understand him correctly, both 'delinquency' and the justice system need each other to per Foucault's Discipline and Punish is a bit of a tough read. Perhaps that's due to his derivative thinking, perhaps to the translation; regardless, the book presents to me as a dissection of the construction, maintenance, and exercise of state power as it relates to the penal system. Here Foucault renders some interesting points; most significant to me is the notion of the penal system as virtual cycle. If I understand him correctly, both 'delinquency' and the justice system need each other to perpetuate their existence. Once the power of the state is created, in the form of prisons, courts, police, a strong incentive forms to continue, if not grow, that power. The 'delinquents' are fed from the very system purported to retard them. This is a very interesting dynamic and one of recent 'scientific' making, it seems. It also may explain the ever expanding scope of criminality in the US. Further, the penal system has implications for broader society, as Foucault writes: The practice of placing individuals under 'observation' is a natural extension of a justice imbued with disciplinary methods and examination procedures. Is it surprising that the cellular prison, with its regular chronologies, forced labour, its authorities of surveillance and registration, its experts in normality, who continue and multiply the functions of the judge, should have become the modern instrument of penalty? Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons? Is this not an outright indictment of the social sciences? I thought about the role the bogeyman plays in supporting state power; the role German and Japanese hidden 'agents' played in past world wars, the lurking communist cells of the mid-twentieth century, and the many nefarious dark ghosts today, internal and external, ready to spring forth and unleash their horrors upon the innocents. These bogeymen, too, have an important role in the construction of state power. The issue with this all is that our collective subconscious comes to control our individual conscious, and without any great number seeming to notice or care; that we all bear a significant cost, both social and monetary, is of little concern. Now why is that?

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan-David Jackson

    This book was the hardest book I've ever read. Generally I'll go through a 300 page book in two days - this one took me about a month. Perhaps its the style of the author, or something to do with the translation from French, but it was very difficult for me to finish it. Many times I found myself reaching the end of a page and realizing that I hadn't been able to concentrate on it so my mind had wandered and I hadn't actually taken anything in, so I'd have to start the page over, and then it wou This book was the hardest book I've ever read. Generally I'll go through a 300 page book in two days - this one took me about a month. Perhaps its the style of the author, or something to do with the translation from French, but it was very difficult for me to finish it. Many times I found myself reaching the end of a page and realizing that I hadn't been able to concentrate on it so my mind had wandered and I hadn't actually taken anything in, so I'd have to start the page over, and then it would happen again on the same page. This added about 50 pages to the total length of the book. I'd have liked more about what purpose prison serves for society, and why it's better/worse than other alternatives. The book starts with discussion about executions and other physical punishment, and seems to move suddenly to discussion of prisons with no real information given about why the change happened. The idea that prisons were not created for primarily any humanitarian reasons, but because the clash between the sovereign's power and the people during the spectacle of an execution could turn violent is an interesting idea, and one I'd never thought of before, but its not properly explained how that led to the creation and proliferation of prisons. My main interest in this book was an opportunity to learn about the history of prisons, and why prisons exist. I don't feel like I learned those things, and I felt misled by the subtitle "The Birth of the Prison." If anybody knows of any other books which discuss the history of punishment, why we have prisons, what could exist instead of prison, etc. I'd love for you to leave a comment so I can check them out. The Panopticon section was my favorite; I've been interested in the Panopticon prison design since I first read about it years ago. However, since I already feel irrationally paranoid about authority, I wasn't stirred further by the idea that we're being watched (or are we? o_o) from the outside and watching ourselves internally as well. The information about schools, hospitals, and workplaces developing things in common with prisons and panopticism was interesting and will probably ring true for anyone who has ever gone to school or work, but I've read similar things written in a more interesting way in John Taylor Gatto's books which have more of a focus on education, so there was nothing new for me. Mr. Gatto's books have no bibliography to back them up, while Discipline & Punish seems painstakingly researched; in fact I've probably never seen a book with a larger bibliography. However, I'm not a researcher myself, so a large bibliography doesn't compare with engaging writing. I did get some useful and interesting information from this book, and it made me see a few things from a new perspective, but everything I gained was only through toil and slog. At first I felt like some uncultured Philistine because of the five star reviews saying how fantastic the book is, and because it was personally recommended by a friend who enjoyed it, but I did feel somewhat vindicated when I found that Pluto Press published a 200 page book titled How to Read Foucalt's Discipline and Punish .

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Having previously been exposed to Foucault through a reader, it was nice to see a book-length context for his meditations on the birth of the prison. What impresses me most about Foucault are his abilities as a great synthesizer of knowledge, taking a vast body of textual evidence and orchestrating that evidence into a theoretically solid thesis, which is a skill that so few theorists seem to have. As a precise history, I have few quibbles with his reporting, and his theory seems completely vali Having previously been exposed to Foucault through a reader, it was nice to see a book-length context for his meditations on the birth of the prison. What impresses me most about Foucault are his abilities as a great synthesizer of knowledge, taking a vast body of textual evidence and orchestrating that evidence into a theoretically solid thesis, which is a skill that so few theorists seem to have. As a precise history, I have few quibbles with his reporting, and his theory seems completely valid. More or less universally recommended.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Foucault, who was mentally unstable, tells us that there is no such thing as individual human agency except when we're lovingly embracing the slimy tendrils of "power". But "power" can't be defined because it's just out there slithering around for humans to use, even though it's an abstract concept. Oh yeah, and everything that' I'm writing right now is because I've (un)con)science)sciously submitted to the ruling authority of the keyboard, because the dominion of typing, which I will(fully) bec Foucault, who was mentally unstable, tells us that there is no such thing as individual human agency except when we're lovingly embracing the slimy tendrils of "power". But "power" can't be defined because it's just out there slithering around for humans to use, even though it's an abstract concept. Oh yeah, and everything that' I'm writing right now is because I've (un)con)science)sciously submitted to the ruling authority of the keyboard, because the dominion of typing, which I will(fully) become the serpentine slave of, is part of an apparatus of discipline (disciple) which tells my hands what to do and by extension (existension) my soul, whatever that is, I'm not supposed to know, just Foucault.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alexei Ghertescu

    I would recommend “Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison” to everyone interested in the mechanisms of modern control of society through the institutions created since the end of the 18th century. Michel Foucault is considered one of the major philosophers of the late 20th century. And I saw a number of critical reviews about this particular work. But some of the critics referred to some narrow philosophical issues and minor considerations found in the book (which, in my view, do not cha I would recommend “Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison” to everyone interested in the mechanisms of modern control of society through the institutions created since the end of the 18th century. Michel Foucault is considered one of the major philosophers of the late 20th century. And I saw a number of critical reviews about this particular work. But some of the critics referred to some narrow philosophical issues and minor considerations found in the book (which, in my view, do not change the essence of the main Foucault’s propositions). Actually, you don’t need to have a degree in philosophy or be able to juggle with different philosophical concepts and ideas in order to understand the main ideas in this work. As I said, if you are interested in how some modern institutions (or at least their certain elements) are intrinsically designed to control and discipline people and society, you will find many thoughtful insights in it... How did it happen that the execution of death penalty (which took most extreme and cruel forms in previous centuries) becomes more and more humanized, then in the end of the 18th - beginning of 19th centuries it is consistently removed from public space and loses it feature of a public spectacle with the imprisonment becoming the main criminal penalty? Torture becomes unacceptable, but is it because the criminal persecution system becomes more humane? Foucault’s contention is that the political and economic changes that happen in the wake of industrial and political revolutions of that period bring about the changes in legislations, judicial process, economic forms and controlling mechanisms. And the main aim is to create elaborate mechanisms of controlling and disciplining people. The focus of any persecution shifted from physical punishment of the body to the control, study and education of personality. The arbitrary power of the sovereign is substituted by the detailed regulation imposed by the state. Should it come as a surprise that the prison, while being initially designed and lauded as a means to re-educate the person and having failed to achieve that aim, is still viewed as a tool for improvement of the personality of the offender? And if it failed to achieve its educational goal, why did its model become (and still is) so widely spread and replicated in so many other social institutions (schools, army, various educational facilities, factories, working houses, etc.)? By Foucault, all these institutions are there not to improve the personality (despite what their proponents officially declared) but rather to discipline those people who enter them. The whole society, particularly with the introduction of centralized police services, become an object of comprehensive control using many of the concepts that have in its core the principles of control in prisons. You may have a feeling that Foucault is obsessed with social control, but he manages to provide an in-depth analysis of many social phenomena that are related to the discipline and control mechanisms. And even if you do not agree with many of his ideas, I found his analysis of those phenomena and the related mechanisms truly valuable.

  23. 4 out of 5

    michal k-c

    not sure what Foucault did to earn the reputation of being an incomprehensible postmodernist (mots et les choses, maybe). This is super lucid and readable. I won't say it's outdated but since its publication there have been a number of carceral episodes that I feel like really stretch the limits of Foucault's structuralist analysis here (consider Abu Ghraib and Obama's "we tortured some folks" comment). Still, not impossible to work within the framework outlined here - American empire leaving th not sure what Foucault did to earn the reputation of being an incomprehensible postmodernist (mots et les choses, maybe). This is super lucid and readable. I won't say it's outdated but since its publication there have been a number of carceral episodes that I feel like really stretch the limits of Foucault's structuralist analysis here (consider Abu Ghraib and Obama's "we tortured some folks" comment). Still, not impossible to work within the framework outlined here - American empire leaving the disciplinary mark of the sovereign on the body of the global socius. Good summer read!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thompson

    For a long time I turned my nose up at Foucault based on what I thought that other people think that he says. It all seemed to be convoluted and beside the point, but he is so highly regarded that I decided that I should give him a chance to speak for himself, and I now confess that I was totally wrong. Foucault is brilliant. I don't always agree with him, and I think that some of his ideas need to be reexamined and evolved a bit in light of subsequent knowledge, but the core of his analysis is For a long time I turned my nose up at Foucault based on what I thought that other people think that he says. It all seemed to be convoluted and beside the point, but he is so highly regarded that I decided that I should give him a chance to speak for himself, and I now confess that I was totally wrong. Foucault is brilliant. I don't always agree with him, and I think that some of his ideas need to be reexamined and evolved a bit in light of subsequent knowledge, but the core of his analysis is insightful and smart. If Foucault had known, for example, about the studies of Zimbardo and Milgram, he might have approached some of his ideas from a somewhat different angle, but I think that he would still end up in more or less the same place. Foucault describes the history of discipline and punishment from the medieval world of the monastery and the inquisition to modern penitentiaries and ideas of deterrence and rehabilitation. He argues that throughout their history the varying systems of discipline and punishment can be best understood as different expressions of the modalities of power. As Foucault sees it, the systems evolved not to become kinder or more rational (although this may have been an incidental side effect), but to become more efficient and better able to serve the needs of those holding the levers of power in the modern world. The prison became the model for broader social mechanisms for discipline and punishment from the military to schools, hospitals and factories. These systems of organization and discipline became a key part of the mechanism of the industrial revolution and the modern world in general, which is only able to function effectively and achieve economies of scale by effective organization of masses of people. And a basic premise of all of this is that prison style mass organization can only work by objectifying the people who are cogs in the machine and is therefore a large scale violation of Kant's categorical imperative that we should always treat other people as ends not means. So the very thing that is the engine of our prosperity is antithetical to the Golden Rule. Foucault suggests that progress in science also comes out of this organizational paradigm although he never fully develops that part of his argument. Wow! No wonder a lot of people in the modern world are alienated and suicidal. It makes for depressing reading, but there's definitely something to it. But this is only a tiny part of what Foucault has to say. He has many more related insights which are developed in an engaging and accessibly written history of the penal system. There is a lot here to think about.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Szplug

    This was my first exposure to Michel Foucault. I'm not sure whether it is the fault of the translator or not, but I found Foucault's prose to be rather thick and elliptical at times, to the degree that it may have contributed to the fleeting impression this work left on me. It was interesting, and presented a view on the evolution of criminal punishment that I hadn't considered in such a light before - I find, however, that much of it has already slipped away from memory. The principal thrust of This was my first exposure to Michel Foucault. I'm not sure whether it is the fault of the translator or not, but I found Foucault's prose to be rather thick and elliptical at times, to the degree that it may have contributed to the fleeting impression this work left on me. It was interesting, and presented a view on the evolution of criminal punishment that I hadn't considered in such a light before - I find, however, that much of it has already slipped away from memory. The principal thrust of the book is to present a view on how the punishment of felon's has evolved in western society from brutal, pain-filled tortures and executions meant to punish the victim for their effrontery to the monarch - stressing a personal offense on the part of the transgressor - to a very systematic and abstract approach meant to remove the convict from society and allow them to be kept under observation. The core concept of this evolution is presented through a very interesting treatise on Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, an early prison design in which all of the prisoner's cells were visible from a central hub - the inmates couldn't see inside this centre, so they never knew when they were being watched, and thus came to expect that at any given moment they were under observation. This control method has been extended to society, where the populace, aware of being observed by the state in all of their everyday actions, have modified their behavior so as not to draw attention to themselves and risk being punished. Foucault has provided a key ingredient to explaining how we have so easily fallen into a conventional wisdom culture, why we are so generally intolerant of eccentricity and the strange. What's more, he has also put another piece into the twentieth century origins of totalitarianism jigsaw puzzle. An educational and interesting book, if somewhat inaccessible. I'll read more Foucault in the future - I just won't be in any rush to do so.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Siria

    When I finished reading this book, I broke out a tub of Ben and Jerry's Half Baked—chocolate and vanilla frozen yoghurt with brownie and cookie dough chunks seemed the only suitable reward after 300+ pages of Foucault's prose. Whether or not its his writing style or an effect of the translation, Discipline and Punish is a dense and at times frustratingly opaque book. That, coupled with Foucault's fondness for using minuscule, ahistorical details to justify large-scale abstractions, made this a v When I finished reading this book, I broke out a tub of Ben and Jerry's Half Baked—chocolate and vanilla frozen yoghurt with brownie and cookie dough chunks seemed the only suitable reward after 300+ pages of Foucault's prose. Whether or not its his writing style or an effect of the translation, Discipline and Punish is a dense and at times frustratingly opaque book. That, coupled with Foucault's fondness for using minuscule, ahistorical details to justify large-scale abstractions, made this a very frustrating book to read. I admired his refusal to accept conventional truths, but his arguments were never wholly convincing to me, his tendency to reify 'power' as a independent entity with agency of its own irritating, and his lack of intersectionality jarring (does society really treat the bodies of men and women in the same way? Of cis- and transgendered, ablebodied and those with disabilities?). To sum up: an important philosophical work, but his historical method sucks.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    i first trudged through this book when i was in high school. being 17, i realized that i wasn't really understanding what he was saying, but for the first time, felt like i was exposed to an analysis that transcended dominant thought in a way that i didnt know was possible. for the next 3 years i read a lot of foucault..his understanding of the co-productive nature of knowledge and power gave me tools to deconstruct our funny world and truths. not to be too corny, but this shit changed my life. i first trudged through this book when i was in high school. being 17, i realized that i wasn't really understanding what he was saying, but for the first time, felt like i was exposed to an analysis that transcended dominant thought in a way that i didnt know was possible. for the next 3 years i read a lot of foucault..his understanding of the co-productive nature of knowledge and power gave me tools to deconstruct our funny world and truths. not to be too corny, but this shit changed my life. thanks foucault.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    This was an interesting book, but very dry and over my head at times. There were times I feel like you have to know about French history and French prisons to fully get this book. I think I made mistake reading this book first. I wouldn't recommended it unless you have a strong interest for philosophy, criminology, and/or French history. It's obvious Foucault was channeling Marx, Rousseau, and de Sade in this book (he never talks about de Sade, but it reminded me of de Sade's philosophy). I'm st This was an interesting book, but very dry and over my head at times. There were times I feel like you have to know about French history and French prisons to fully get this book. I think I made mistake reading this book first. I wouldn't recommended it unless you have a strong interest for philosophy, criminology, and/or French history. It's obvious Foucault was channeling Marx, Rousseau, and de Sade in this book (he never talks about de Sade, but it reminded me of de Sade's philosophy). I'm still interested in reading more of Foucault.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Xander

    Review will follow in the near future.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Alain Dib

    "Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison" is undoubtedly a controversial book. Either people like it and they are eager to change enthusiastically the system, or at least attempt to do so. On the other hand you have people who hate heavily on it, attacking the post-modernists in general and Michel Foucault in particular. At this instant he is accused of cultural relativism, of feeling repressed having lived as a homosexual man, of claiming crazy stupid things. Most of those claims stem fr "Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison" is undoubtedly a controversial book. Either people like it and they are eager to change enthusiastically the system, or at least attempt to do so. On the other hand you have people who hate heavily on it, attacking the post-modernists in general and Michel Foucault in particular. At this instant he is accused of cultural relativism, of feeling repressed having lived as a homosexual man, of claiming crazy stupid things. Most of those claims stem from a big misunderstanding of Foucault and are often(mostly at least) from people who neither studied philosophy or any related field which makes this work less accessible if you don't have a certain degree I would say of openness. I would like to emphasize the fact that this man we're talking about isn't some stupid guy. A student of the école normale superieure(the most prestigious university of philosophy in all of french which you can't join without undertaking exams that by the way Sartre failed the first time around) isn't some stupid man you can discard by saying: well yes doesn't know what he's talking about, it doesn't make sense mate or he's downright stupid! I can reassure you: he is not. Let's get this out of the way: Michel Foucault probably got a lot of things wrong. But can't we acknowledge that he probably didn't get it all wrong? This book is well documented and focuses mainly on a historical analysis of the penal system, how it evolved and especially the way in which we treat prisoners. For Foucault the seemingly more humane approach is in fact a facade and he proceeds to demonstrate by his standards why that is. The notion of power and coercion is important, as it is at the core of his theory. The philosopher claims that the human sciences are just a way to control people through nomenclature and classifications, that it is a new "scientific" and "improved" way of controlling certain individuals. He then attacks all instance of power. Some of them are schools, prisons, hospitals or others. It is for him the very structure of those institutions which is basically the same. He then argues that it is the system that is controlling everybody that it is the application of the panopticism advocated by Bentham. In other words, it is a continuous supervision of the individual. An individual that more often than not cannot see the one observing, this is a certain way of maintaining fear and the omnipresent presence of social oppressive forces which in return will affect the criminals psychologically. There is a certain truth to that in the era of modern surveillance where it is basically impossible to do anything without the constant feeling of being observed and judged accordingly. You probably think it sounds like something a paranoid person would say? Maybe, but then again, is it completely untrue? Foucault also tackles issues like the power of the king in the first part of the book. It is a rather interesting part that I will leave for the readers to discover. The philosopher is rather disappointed with the role religious groups did play in the establishment of the coercion of the people. He talks about monastic community and how the church condemned some people in the past. Also, about the protestant army and the early hand the church had on the kind of discipline insured at schools, which he join to certain religious values from which discipline stem. For him discipline is a ramification of the faith and good repartition of the time by believers that need to pray to god... Foucault also points out rather rightly the role of prisoners as economy shifted from a feudal regime to the liberalism of today. Prisoners have to do more work because it made them more productive. On the other hand I personally can see why work would benefit prisoners but it's not something me and Mr Foucault see eye to eye to. He's also, rather skeptical about a certain worldview where prisons don't "cure people" they are here to maintain certain people here for others to see. The delinquent is here to stay. Also there is a certain circular logic to prisons which end result id the never ending number of criminals and an impossible task to get out of the political network of forces. Some aspect of his theory I'm not completely with is his attack on psychiatry and psychology which is rather justified. But here, I don't think it's just about power, for you see there are some people who are suicidal and I don't think that they will complain very much about some dude trying to help them out. Foucault is lyrical in his writing which personally made me enjoy the book that much more. Some people attack him on his style which makes everything seem obscure and incomprehensible making him sound deep when he clearly isn't. Personally I didn't encounter any problem concerning this particular aspect because as I said he did undergo some serious studies so I don't expect him to write like a 7th grader. Also, one time on an interview he did say that it is a kind of courtesy to the reader. Is this an easy book? Not quite Should you read it at least once in your life? I univocally say yes Will it upset some? Yes for sure If someone is interested, you can watch on youtube a video between Foucault and Chomskey having a debate. It is pretty interesting. Also if you wish to know more about this man there is a lot of videos or interviews with him on youtube which are highly enjoyable as I myself am a french speaker(some have subtitles I think).

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