Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Overview

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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Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

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Overview

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.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679752554
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/15/1995
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 78,164
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author


Michel Foucault (1926�1984) was a French philosopher, historian, social theorist, and philologist. One of the leading intellectuals of the twentieth century and the most prominent thinker in post-war France, Foucault's work influenced disciplines as diverse as history, sociology, philosophy, sociology, and literary criticism.

One of AudioFile magazine's Golden Voices, Simon Prebble has received over twenty Earphones Awards and five Listen-Up Awards, and he has been a finalist fourteen times for an Audie Award. In 2006, Publishers Weekly named him Narrator of the Year, and he was named Booklist's 2010 Voice of Choice.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2003

    The bars of the centre of society....

    Well, M. Foucault, as always does a terrific job at making a genealogy of Western culture. These are some of the most eloquent passages of the twentieth century. His archaeological method proves to be quite useful in investigating the organization of Contemporary society around the power relations of surveillance, law, and punishment. In short his observations are nothing less than biting, perhaps bitter and infuriating, yet they pierce through the heart of a society that considers itself 'humane' and lays forth its essence. One need only look at America, the latest, most powerful product of Western thought to see the profound implications of his research. Any person interested in the slightest of justice, criminology, history, or philosophy, would do well to reckon with his discourse.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2003

    pathologist's report

    Discipline and Punish is obviously not a set of proposals for reforming contemporary institutions. But the assertion that it is irrelevant to efforts to change the world is as mistaken as it would be to suggest that pathology labs have no place in our hospitals. The notion that contemporary institutions are all, at their core, modeled on our prisons (microtechnologies of power and control), is enough to spark the creative political imagination of any prepared reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2001

    Fascinating but politically static

    According to James Miller's 'The Passion of Michel Foucault' (the best Foucault bio out there), Foucault described 'Discipline and Punish' as his 'first real book' and noted on more one than one occasion its superiority to 'The Order of Things,' a prior book touted by many to be his best. Readers will find all the things that have endeared so many academics and students to his work, especially the radical, counter-intuitive arguments themselves. According to Foucault, western societies have moved away from a punitive mechanism focused on public tortures to one based on prisons not because we have become more humane, but because tortures no longer effectively served their purpose, to legitimize sovereign power (here, one can detect the virulent anti-Enlightenment strain that characterizes all of his books). But Foucault doesn't stop there. He argues that prisons are merely the visible embodiment of a broader, all-encompassing 'power,' the principles of which one can find crystallized in Bentham's 'panopticon.' Basically, the panopticon is a model prison with an opaque tower in the center, which can house a warden or a guard, surrounded by the cages of the prisoners themselves. The panopticon creates an insurmountable power relation in which the prisoners, who can't look inside the tower to see if someone is there, internalize the gaze of the authorities or the idea of being monitored perpetually, and behave accordingly. Foucault argues that panoptic principles were not limited to prisons but permeated schools, barracks, factories, and other social institutions. Hence, you have Foucault's basic thesis: that society itself is one grand prison. Did philosophy ever sound so sexy? The unanswered question in the book, however, is the issue of politics or what we should do to combat this 'power.' If power is so cunning and pervasive as to constitute who we are, how can we fight it except to entertain the bizarre notion that we should somehow fight ourselves? 'Discipline and Punish' pretends to be a concrete political work, but the political alternative suggested is not really politically at all, but more ethical in a Nietzschean, radically individualist way. In the meanwhile, countless children starve, women are prostituted by the thousands, and xenophobia runs rampant in the era of late capitalist globalization. Foucault cannot help us deal with these issues because the problematic of 'Discipline and Punish' is normalization, not the problems of real suffering in the world. So for those who want to read a fascinating and extremely erudite book that does nothing to change the world, I recommend the book. For those who are more interested in making a real difference and want to deal with practical politics, I recommend anything by Chomsky instead.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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