Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault (Book Summary)

This book, “Discipline and Punish”, concentrates on the Western, specifically on France and England. However, considering the history of punishment methods, this book provides the theory of the way power rules things, specifically the way humans are taught the “correct” attitude. When we understand the operation of prisons, we can start understanding the foundations of today’s society. Foucault would like to examine the punishment system in its nature and work to investigate the way different power conditions impacted this system.

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Chapter 1 – From the late 1700s to the mid-1800s, the history of transforming demeanor to crime and punishment and implementations of them led to a special penalty of the soul.

On March second, 1757, there was an ugly scene in the streets of Paris.

Robert-François Damiens, a maid, was openly executed in front of a mafia gang because he attempted to kill the French king Louis XV.

Damiens was sentenced to be separated into four same-sized pieces: his legs and arms were drawn by four horses which were running to opposite sides. However, when his limbs could not be separated from the body, the hangman took out his knife and cut the tendons before the horses finished the separation.

However, the execution was the end of its type. During the eighteenth century, penalizing in front of the public was not in place in Europe. Rather, another means for penalizing was put as the new normal. There was a redesign. Currently, it is done behind walls, and its function was subject to a schedule. Everything was set around the goal of directing humans into the right attitude.

In the nineteenth century, less than a century after Damiens’ punishment, the new punishment system was enciphered in writings like French politician Léon Faucher’s principles “for the House of young prisoners in Paris”.

At five o’clock in the morning the day began for them, they were gotten up by recurring pounds on a drum. At a quarter to six, they began working. They fed themselves at ten o’clock. Training started at ten forty. Work continued between one and seven o’clock. Afterward, at half-past seven, they were locked to their cubicles for the night curfew.

In prison, the way of punishment is done privately, away from public eyes, rather than in an open way. It was not a public display of the volition of the ruling government forces anymore. It was one where bureaucratic punishments were combined with specified prison sentences and rigid programs. These were utilized to change people’s whole character to prohibit any possible crime in the future.

Although there were physical sanctions, and suffering was the concentration of penalties, these changed from a concentration on the body to a concentration on the soul.

It is simple to consider – as many historians have – that this change shows a kind of improvement, that the reducing intensity of penalties demonstrates considerate progress in humanity.

However, the writer considers that they have the wrong perspective. The aim of the penalty had transformed. There was no consideration of crime as bodily damage to a person anymore. It was now centered on hearts and minds, opinions and desires. It requires to be changed if one would like the code to be fixed.

Chapter 2 – Inquisition, persecution, and execution were the focal points of both penalty and inquiry in society, and the public penalty highlighted the sovereign government’s forces as a routine and as a ceremony.

The new way of penalizing during the end of the eighteenth century did not appear suddenly. There was an opinion after it. The philosophers of the Enlightenment had been aggressive in utilizing persecution as a residue from a “Gothic” time, the time when brutality and ferocity were the normals.

Certainly, persecution had not been considered as greatly crude at that time. It was extremely thought of as a kind of science, all down from the length of the cords to be used, to the periodicity with which the used persecution tool should be implemented.

Further to this, persecution was not only a component of the punishment system. It was also considered a central thing of the criminal inquiry. If a civil servant was going to investigate your company, you would probably get persecuted since a lot of focus was put on confession, although it was with force. It was thought that confession was evidence in and of by itself. Any other proof was not necessary.

In other words, forensic persecution was equal to searching for truth.

There was a negative impact to this: inquiry and penalty turned out to be sole and identical, and therefore, persecution turned out to be a focal point of these two.

After a declaration of a criminal offense, public execution of jurisdiction had two distinct uses. First, it was working for a forensic aim, and on the other hand, it had also a political purpose: the public display of fairness demonstrated the force of the highest sovereign.

All crimes were considered as an individual assault on the highest sovereign, and thus the application of the law was, in turn, was to witness his volition. With such a mechanism, the highest sovereign could even desire for a demonstration of having a convict destroyed. It was a sign that the highest sovereign dominated highly over the forensic framework: it was solely his framework and fairness was distributed in his name.

A viewer at a public execution, demonstrating to everyone that a specific culprit was an offender and that he compensates for his sins. Everything was around the audience and warranters of the sovereign’s power. After all, the idea of the show is that it has an audience.

Chapter 4 – The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries introduced a different difficulty of constructing the disciplinary notions.

According to the writer, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries surround what he named “the classical age”.

With the advances in the disciplinary transformations, the path to imprisonment is constructed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A personal penalty was not shown as a warning to the wider society anymore. Rather, criminal people were converted into submissive ones, to be “subjected, used, transformed, improved”. Discipline is a range of techniques by which the body’s functions could be ruled over.

There were four main characteristics of this new technique of discipline.

Firstly comes the “art of distributions”.

This included the distribution of convicts’ bodies into specific kinds of areas. This started with siege; the utilization of areas such as dormitories was widely ordinary. However, it moved forward. The collective was fragmented, and the people were divided into smaller areas. Architecture could be utilized for this aim. Just consider the monasterial cells, a revelation without hesitation.

Second, the domination of function was a piece of the disciplinary instrument.

In other words, it was about timetables. They provided rhythm, routine, and continuity. To repeat, discipline tore off a page out of the holy book; religious institutions like monasteries were valuable pioneers in the control of time and discipline.

Third, an organization of formation was in place. Do not be confused with the name. It is just telling that someone’s characteristics are progressively shaped by tight methods and actions. The sole way to advancement up the steps of a founded hierarchy was to contribute to and achieve a meticulously specified finishing of duties. This ordering of duties was named “seriation”.

Training schedules were some instances. Students go through steps of seniority by a strictly specified path of education and assessment. In conclusion, people were classified into a bigger body through organizational constructions.

In the end, a combination of powers takes place. The thing was that the methods of discipline would not only be utilized for controlling people’s behaviors and the way their time is scheduled. Discipline would also dominate their attitude as social beings. The construction of each person’s power would, thus, provides a fruitful machine functioning as a collective being.

This was linked to opinions that had first been exposed in the time of the Industrial Revolution towards the end of the eighteenth century. People’s bodies were considered as gears of the structured construction of manufacturing. The important thing was the number of people who existed at the place instead of the personal power or gallantry. The new disciplinary structure implemented this notion in fresh terms.

Chapter 5 – The disciplinary force has three tenets: “hierarchical observation”, “normalizing judgment”, and “examination”.

As the disciplinary structure was constructed during the seventeenth century, it is proved that its force was mainly placed in three tenets.

The first tenet was “hierarchical observation”. Observation and investigation are the main substances of force. In other words, structures of enforcement were pushed through interfering control. Exemplars for this type of behavior and practice of force had existed since long ago. By these exercises, and through humanitarian sciences, the concept of the ideal has built up. The military camp instance is a case to the point.

In an “ideal” camp, every person constructs a piece of a hierarchical web of people, each observing one another. Disciplinary strength has its foundation on a complicated structure of cross-observation, the function of which is forward enhanced by the utilization of geometry, up to the way tents are placed. A captain’s tent, for example, would most tend to be placed in a way that observes his subordinates’ area.

In time, forms of military camps were implemented in boarding houses, medical centers, and schools.

As a result, architecture turned out to be a piece of the weaponry of discipline. Constructions were designed in a way that everything on the inside could be observed without any difficulty from the outside. It had obtained a novel aim beyond usefulness and beauty.

The construction of the École in Paris was a symbol of these techniques: it is nothing different than an “observatory”. Students’ separate rooms were organized down a corridor, through which, at orderly intervals, were officers’ rooms. Furthermore, a glass looking at the corridor in every students’ rooms stood for they sensed that they could be looked at anytime.

The second disciplinary tenet was normalizing judgment. In other words, this was about the enhancing practice of force through norms instead of through personal enthusiasm. Therefore, in areas like medicine or education, scores and ranks were granted according to examinations of skill. A hierarchy was constructed. Penalty in these situations frequently included continuous work on fulfilling these new normalized rules.

The last tenet of discipline was “examination”. People have been deducted to the condition of “cases” to be dealt with. Hospitals were the points that this could be seen the brightest. They turned out to places that clients were exposed to constant assessment under a doctor’s inspection.

Schools had nothing short of this. Each of arithmetic, spelling, handwriting, and grammar had been the topics to be assessed therefore standards could be intensified.

Chapter 6 – As Bentham stated in his Panopticon, a building can display how people could be checked and inspected with a sense of oversight.

During the last times of the seventeenth century, the plague disease was devastating Europe. Any city which was doubted that the plague had arrived going straight into lockdown. For measures of safety, ensuring discipline was required.

To start with, each family was commanded, in the ache of death, to stay inside the home. An official known as a syndic was assigned to spy all the streets and locked every door on his way.

It was the syndic’s mission to stop by the assigned street every day and yell at the residents of every home. If they did not show up at the window, then he understood something was going on; most probably they were disabled by the disease or they were dead.

The syndic then provided his report to the city officers named intendants, who reported further to the police magistrate.

As the web of order demonstrates, the thing that had been constructed was a filtered structure of inspection. The regiment at that point is that the calamity of the plague had extraordinarily enabled the construction of a structure of command. Furthermore, it was an example that continued to motivate some of the residents of these towns, who afterward turned out to politicians themselves. They imagined constructing an excellently ordered and administered society.

There is a widespread characteristic existing in constructed, ordered societies of this kind: a sense of being continuously observed.

We can observe what this might have felt like in architectural means in the eighteenth-century Panopticon, a what-if experiment of the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham concluded in 1787.

The construction Panopticon’s form is like a donut. There is a town in the middle of it. Its windows look at the outer front, through the donut’s inner area. The construction itself is separated into cubicles, which every one of them stretched from the ring on the inside to the ring on the outside. The cubicles had two glasses, one at both ends. One of them looks at the tower, the other one looks at the outside.

The total impact of this kind of structure is that the prisoners – one to each cubicle – had a feeling of being constantly observed. With this sense, they act like they are being observed at any minute, regardless of whether they watched or not.

Chapter 7 – Prisons were made to lack freedom and prepare people for discipline in the modern age.

In the contemporary age, everything about the concept of prison is considered ordinary. They look ordinary to us, a clear remedy to handle crime. Crime is still present and criminal individuals are still left free without being wholly “transformed”.

However, things have considered distinct at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Imprisonment as a penalty was new. It required time for thinking it as the main structure of penalty. However, it won in the end, and there were some great motives to sustain this one.

First of all, a prison was now considered as a way to cut the freedom of a culprit. The building of prisons was, thus, conditional on the presence of societies where freedom was considered a global right – at the minimum to the people who were thought of as full constituents of society.

As a result, the lack of freedom was seen as an egalitarian penalty, and the prison was the way by which it could be realized.

There are more advantages of a prison as a method of penalty: the degree of the punishment could be differentiated and correctly assessed according to the time – by days, months, and years.

Certainly, there is further to the prison than the sole cutting of freedom. It offered a chance for “adjustment” and moral advancement for imprisoned convicts as well. Isolation and loneliness have turned out a method of punishment and correction.

The idea there was that if a convict was left lonely with his penalty and the memory of his crime, he would learn to hate very strictly about his behavior. He would be surrounded by regret. As a result, it would be his conviction that influenced the reform.

Further to the loneliness, prisoners were given prison duties. Again, the purpose was probably that this would change their personalities. But the writer inquires about the correct aim of forced work. No monetary advantage was generated, nor did prisoners retained real job abilities. The things they had learned, however, were the way to be included in the structure of manufacturing, and the be a piece of the device of the industrialized society.

The convict was, in this way of thinking, not distinct from any other disciplined subject in the contemporary era.

Book Review

This book is an intensive piece of philosophy and sociology and anybody curious about these topics should take time to read it. Rather than aiming at the body of a convict, his spirit should be the focal point of any penalty. Any change would be observed following the reformation of the spirit, rather than penalizing the convict’s body. Disciplined and strictly organized techniques are dealt with during the industrial era. The prison is not the sole center. It is attached to a wide range of “carceral mechanisms” – “aimed to heal, to lessen ache, to ease, and so on.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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