Discipline And Punish By Foucault: Analysis

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In his book Discipline and Punish, Michel launches a genealogical investigation into the various ideas and discourses, which surround the idea of discipline and punishment in Western society. As a part of this analysis, Foucault presents a common model of the prison, based off of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticism. People are constantly conditioned and formed as subjects in this panoptic model of surveillance in institutions such as the prison. In this paper, I attempt to demonstrate how the constant surveillance described in Discipline and Punish leads to self-governance. To do this I will begin by offering an account of the panoptic prison and the surveillance that it creates. From this account, I will introduce the idea of the normalizing judgment,…show more content…
Foucault writes that the objective of his book was to “serve as a political background to various studies of the power of normalization and the formation of knowledge in modern society” (308). We can examine the power-relations that stem from surveillance within a society to understand what Foucault meant by this statement. In Surveillance, Power and Everyday Life, David Lyon defines surveillance as literally meaning to watch over (Lyon, 2). With the threat of someone constantly watching your actions in panoptic institutions, the idea “people do alter their behaviours when they are aware that they are under surveillance” is not unsurprising (Lyon, 8). While the most apparent form of surveillance taking place in the prison took the form of guards watching over the inmates, other methods of surveillance could be found. These other examples took the form of constant data collection and classification of the prisoners and the information associated with them. This constant intake and organization of information leads to knowledge of those in the prison system, and this knowledge is inseparable from power: “A body of knowledge was being constantly built up from the everyday behaviour of inmates; it was organized as an instrument of continual assessment” (Foucault, 294). In this…show more content…
Once what is normal is established, “society as a whole begins to police all of its members to certify that they conform” (Lorentzen, 1). We no longer only govern our behaviours based on how they may appear to those conducting surveillance, but also to others in society who will judge us based on the constructed norms. When a person deviates from what is seen as normal, they immediately receive a classification of being ‘abnormal’ or ‘deviant’ (Lorentzen, 1). In the case of the prison system, all of the prisoners would be marked as being abnormal when compared to the rest of society because they deviated from the law, which works to enforce certain norms. In Discipline and Punish, Foucault lays out a three-step process of how the normalizing judgment occurs. This process first establishes what the norms are within a society, giving particular focus to institutions. Once these norms are established, methods of surveillance are put into place to ensure that people are upholding the norms. This can be seen in the classifications and pathologizing of people that take place, again with particular attention to institutions. Through the methods of surveillance those who deviate from the law can be identified, and these law-breaking actions are punished. This punishment is “disguised as discipline” (Lorentzen, 2). This process is established in our institutions and how we carry out
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