Throughout thebook report, the study of Michel Foucault called ”Discipline and Punish: TheBirth of Prison”1will be discussed from a historiographic perspective, focusing on the periodand transformation in question and on the concepts Foucault proposed andemphasized to understand it. Before diving into the transformation startingfrom the 18th century and the concepts surrounding it throughout thework, the scholar will be viewed briefly to understand the context of the book.Then the methodology, the main arguments and the concepts proposed tounderstand the period in question will be studied, followed by the discussionsregarding the power which changes history and the subject of history.Consequently the significance, uniqueness and the overall place of the book inthe literature it belongs will be discussed. In order to havea better understanding of a work, knowing the context in which it was born willbe helpful.
Therefore getting to know Foucault and his context is crucial.Paul-Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a French philosopher and historian who waseducated at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris in the fields of philosophyand psychology. Foucault was not only an intellectual but also a politicalactivist who was involved in a wide range of protests and campaigns like theones against the war in Algeria, against racism, against the Vietnam War andfor prison reform. The French campaign for prison reform called ”Grouped’information sur les prisons” was stated as one of the major influencesregarding his work Discipline and Punish for the reason that as a politicalactivist he visited prisons in France and America, wrote and spoke about theirconditions.
Foucault’s relationship with the structuralism movement should bementioned too. Structuralism was focused on studying philosophical structuresand systems of language which was influenced by the linguistic theorist deSaussure emphasizing the role of signs in language. Foucault’s concerns aboutthe effect of the role of language and systems of power on individuals makeshim an intellectual who is cited as a part of the structuralist movement and apart of the linguistic turn. Another major influence on Foucault was FriedrichNietzsche.
The concept of genealogy by Nietzsche was stated as his main legacyto Foucault. Later on, Foucault used genealogy to critically examinediscourses.2A different part of Nietzsche’s legacy to Foucault was the perception ofhistory. Nietzsche argued in ‘On the Uses and Abuses of History for Life’ thatacademics poisoned the perception of history as something to be read to knowwhat happened in the past and learn it for its’ own sake but instead historywas something for concepts and ideas to be dig out of and understood to lead toa better life in contemporary times. This influence of Nietzsche encouragedFoucault to look into the past to understand and make sense of the issues ofone’s own time.3 All of theseinfluences on Foucault leads to the question of aim and methodology in hiswork. According to Foucault, genealogy writes the past as fiction, describinghow things are made into facts and reconstructing history interpreting thepresent. Genealogy aims to bring the mechanisms which enabled a particularinstitutional formation to develop to the open and understand the order ofthings which gave rise to the present social reality.
In Discipline and Punishthe genealogical question is concerned with the way the model of power topunish which is coercive, secret, single-handed and centered on the body riseand take the place of the model which was public, collective, dramatic andrepresentative.4 Foucault’sargument of history serving the concerns of the present is central in hismethodology. In writing the history of prison as a place where the politicalinstruments of the body gathered together in a closed architecture, Foucaultwas actually writing the genealogy of the present form of prison throughexposing the relation of prison to mechanisms of normalization and placing thesciences of criminality into the domain of power instead performing a part ofpristine access to Truth. Through identifying the mechanisms of normalizationsuch as the psychologization of the justice system and the division of abnormaland normal allowed Foucault to write the history of present in the presentpower relation and political struggles, uncovering the modern prison andcurrent social apparatus. This act of writing the history of the present, whichis also referred to as archaeology in Foucault’s work, defines the limits ofthe modern period and modern discourse, exposing the finitude of the attributesto humanity which seems essential and challenges the fundamental assumptions ofone’s own time. Foucault’s attempt of writing the history of the present isalso referred to as antihistory for the reason that it aims to uncover the pastto rupture the present into a future without the need of a past to becontinuously recaptured.5 In order tobriefly summarize the subject of the book, first thing that can be said aboutDiscipline and Punish is that it is the work of Foucault concerning the historyof the modern penal system and it was first published in 1975. Throughout thebook, Foucault focuses on the rupture regarding the change in power relationsin the 18th century and the effects of it on criminality, punishmentand the birth of prison.
The body has a central importance on Foucault’sargument because the disciplinary and normalizing technologies practiced on thebody reveals how the operation of power changed after the 18thcentury. The book isdivided into four main parts; respectively Torture, Punishment, Discipline andthe Prison. The first part Torture has two chapters called as ”The Body of theCondemned” and ”The Spectacle of the Scaffold”. The first chapter startswith a picturesque narration of the form of punishment of the 18thcentury which would soon be followed with a reformation project with a newtheory of law and crime and a new legitimization of punishment also known asthe modern system of law. In this chapter Foucault problematizes the change whichis the abolishment of the spectacle and the cancellation of pain in the modernexecution ceremony, taking the place of the old performance of tormenting in theopen public sphere. Another problematic concerns the central object of thepunishment changing from physical torment to a property or a right. In this chapter,Foucault also states the purpose of the book which is to reveal the genealogyof the scientific-legal whole which contains the interrelated history of themodern spirit and the new power of judgment and where the support is found, thelegitimization points and the rules are provided, the influence is spread andthe specificity is masked for the power to judge. In other words the history ofthe power to punish is a part of the genealogy of the modern spirit.
6 The second chapterof Torture discusses the ritual aspect of the old form of punishment throughtormenting as somewhere the power expresses itself. Throughout this ritual oftorture, the body produced and reproduced the reality of the crime and thisritual strengthened the power and revealed the relation which gave power to thelaw. This chapter also emphasizes a very important part of the old practice ofpunishment which is closely related with the concept of agency. When thejustice expressed itself out in the public and even called the public aswitnesses or assistants of this justice it also opened a space for a response,an intervention which could force itself into the mechanism of punishment anddivide the effects of it or even change the direction of the violence. Theritual aspect of the punishment of tormenting opened the space for the publicto show their rejection of the power of the punisher and might gave rise to anuprising too.
7 The second partof the book has two chapters; respectively ”Generalized Punishment” and ”TheGentle Art of Punishment”. The first chapter of this part discusses the newstrategy of the reformist project in creating the new law to punish whichargued for making the punishment and suppression of unlawful practices afunction dispersed into the whole society, punishing no less but better andpunishing with a softened strength and in a more ‘humane’ way but making itmore universal and in more necessity and making the power to punish to reachdeeper in the society. This refers to the argument that through therepresentations and signs of a calculated economy of power to punish, the mindis also exposed to this power as well as the body.8 The secondchapter of the Punishment part of the book discusses the form and function ofthe punishment: penal institution and correction facility where the power topunish is institutionalized in a closed suppressive place and aims toappropriate the time and body of the criminal and to surround and correct thebehaviors of the criminal through a system of authority and information orcoercive institution and punitive city where the power to punish is disguisedunder a generalized function of society and aims to suppress the crime through beingpresent everywhere with representation, symbol and discourse and acting as a barrierplaced against the idea of crime in the minds of people. Foucault argues thatpunishment is the ceremony of the sovereign in monarchic law, the coded representationsand symbols aiming to redefine the subjects of law in the projects of reformersand lastly in the draft of prison it is a technique to suppress individuals anddiscipline the bodies and it requires an original power established for it. EssentiallyFoucault problematizes the enforcement of the prison out of all three, takingthe place of public, representative, collective, referential model with asuppressive, bodily and secretive model.
9 The firstchapter of the Discipline part of the book discusses the way disciplinarypractices work which creates procedures for the coercion of bodies to subjugatethem and to impose an obedience-utility ratio on them. Disciplinary practicesand techniques as a concept have a central importance in Foucault’s arguments. Accordingto Foucault, discipline creates individuality equipped with fourcharacteristics from the bodies it controls; cellular through spatialdistribution, organic through coding of activities, formative through time madecumulative and integrative through assembly of powers. In order to do thatdiscipline has four major techniques; build tables, sentencing maneuvers, imposingpractices and organizing strategies.10 The secondchapter of Discipline argues that the success of the disciplinary power lies inhierarchical observation which refers to surveillance as a mechanism ofcontrol, normalizing judgment which is a system of rewarding-punishingaccording to a penalty of norm providing a way to measure differences andhomogenize and lastly examination which makes possible the individual to beseen, documented, analyzed and described. All these aspects of disciplinarypower can be observed in places like schools or factories.11 In the thirdchapter of Discipline Foucault discusses Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon which isthe architectural form of hierarchical observation made possible through acircle shaped tower in the middle enabling the supervisor in it to keep a closewatch on every individual in every cell without being seen.
The perpetualvisibility makes the power to discipline with maximum efficiency in an economicway. In Foucault’s argument, this disciplinary technology referred to as panopticismcan be expanded and applied in various spheres of social life. 12 1Michel Foucault, Hapishanenin Do?u?u (Ankara: ?mge Kitabevi, 2017)2 SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Discipline andPunish.” SparkNotes LLC.
n.d..http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/disciplinepunish/ (accessed January 11,2018).
3 ”Philosophy – Michel Foucault,” YouTube video,8:16, posted by ”The School of Life,” July 3rd, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBJTeNTZtGU (accessed January 11, 2018) 4Sharalyn Popen, ”Review of Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison byMichel Foucault and Alan Sheridan”, The School Review 86, no. 4 (August 1978),pp.
686-690.5Michael S. Roth, ”Foucault’s ‘History of the Present’,”, History and Theory20, no.1 (1981): 32-46.
6Michel Foucault, ”Mahkûmlar?n Bedeni” in Hapishanenin Do?u?u (Ankara: ?mge,2017), 33-69.7Michel Foucault, ”Azap Çektirmenin Görkemi” in Hapishanenin Do?u?u (Ankara:?mge, 2017) , 71-121.8Michel Foucault, ”Genelle?mi? Ceza” in Hapishanenin Do?u?u (Ankara: ?mge,2017), 125-166.9Michel Foucault, ”Cezalar?n Yumu?akl???” in Hapishanenin Do?u?u (Ankara:?mge, 2017), 167-204.
10Michel Foucault, ”?taatkâr Bedenler” in Hapishanenin Do?u?u (Ankara: ?mge,2017) 207-253. 11Michel Foucault, ”?yi Terbiye Etmenin Araçlar?” in Hapishanenin Do?u?u(Ankara: ?mge, 2017) 255-287.12Michel Foucault, ”Görülmeden Gözetim Alt?nda Tutan Hapishane Sistemi” (Ankara:?mge, 2017) 289-331.