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Discipline and Punish

Michel Foucault (trans. Robert Hurley)

Part One: Torture

1. The body of the condemned
This first section of Part One serves as an introduction to the entire book.
Examples of eighteenth-century torture provide Foucault with many colorful
episodes to relate in his account of how penality changed in modernity.
Foucault relates an explicit account of Damien’s torture to introduce his
subject (3-5) and compares that account of penality to Faucher’s timetable for
prisoners published in approximately 1837 (6-7).

The period separating these two accounts is a “new age for penal justice” in
Europe and the United States that saw changes in the following areas:
-- Economy of punishment
-- Numerous projects for reform
-- New theories of law and crime
-- New moral and political justifications of the right to punish
-- The disappearance of old laws and customs (7).

In the span of only a few decades between the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, torture as public spectacle disappeared (7) as did “the body as the
major target of penal repression” (8). Two processes were at work in this
(1) Disappearance of punishment as spectacle (8); and
(2) Slackening of the hold on the body (10)

Disappearance of punishment as spectacle (8)

Punishment becomes a hidden part of the penal process with several
(1) It leaves the domain of everyday perception and enters that of abstract
(2) Its effectiveness is seen as resulting from its inevitability, not from its
visible intensity;
(3) It is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of
public punishment that must discourage crime;
(4) The mechanics of punishment changes its mechanisms; thus, “justice no
longer takes public responsibility for the violence that is bound up with its
practice . . .[and] is difficult to account for” (9).

Public spectacle turned the tables, enveloping the executioner, judge, and
other associated parties in shame and often the subject of the public’s
violence. The change from punishment as public spectacle saw the offender
unequivocally marked with the negative sign; the publicity shifted to the trial
and justice dissociated itself from execution, trusting autonomous others to do
the job (9-10). E.g., in France, prison administration duties were the
responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior, but responsibility for penal
servitude in the convict ships and penal settlements lay with the Ministry of the
Navy or the Ministry of the Colonies.

“Beyond this distribution of roles operates a theoretical disavowal: do not

imagine that the sentences that we judges pass are activated by a desire to
punish; they are intended to correct, reclaim, ‘cure’; a technique of
improvement represses, in the penalty, the strict expiation of evil-doing, and
relieves the magistrates of the demeaning task of punishing. In modern
justice and on the part of those who dispense it there is a shame in punishing,
which does not always preclude zeal” (10).

Slackening of the hold on the body (10)

-- “One no longer touched the body, or at least as little as possible, and then
only to reach something other than the body itself” (11).
-- “The body now serves as an instrument or intermediary: if one intervenes
upon it to imprison it, or to make it work, it is in order to deprive the individual
of a liberty that is regarded both as a right and as property” (11).
-- “From being an art of unbearable sensations punishment has become an
economy of suspended rights” (11).
-- “The body and pain are not the ultimate objects of [the law’s] punitive
action,” thus warders, doctors, chaplains, psychiatrists, psychologists, and
educationalists have taken over from the executioner (11).
-- “Impose penalties free of all pain” (11).
-- “The reduction of these ‘thousand deaths’ to strict capital punishment
defines a whole new morality concerning the act of punishing” (12).
-- “At the beginning of the nineteenth century, then, the great spectacle of
physical punishment disappeared; the tortured body was avoided; the
theatrical representation of pain was excluded from punishment” (14).
-- “By 1830-1848, public executions preceded by torture had almost entirely
disappeared,” though this change was not continuous (14).
-- “There remains a trace of ‘torture’ in the modern mechanisms of criminal
justice – a trace that has not been entirely overcome, but which is enveloped,
increasingly, by the non-corporal nature of the penal system” (16).
-- The body has not been completely removed because of the implications of
removing freedom, e.g., food rationing, sexual deprivation, solitary

“If the penality in its most severe forms no longer addresses itself to the body,
on what does it lay hold?” (16).
“There is a substitution of objects: the quality, the nature, and the substance
of “crime” has changed in its sense as the substance of which the punishable
element is made (as opposed to its formal definition). Judgment is passed on
offenses as defined by law, but judgment is also passed on passions,
instincts, anomalies, infirmities, maladjustments, effects of environment or
heredity, aggressivity, perversions, drives, and desires” (17).

“By solemnly inscribing offences in the field of objects susceptible of scientific

knowledge, they provide the mechanisms of legal punishment with a justifiable
hold not only on offences, but on individuals; not only on what they do, but
also on what they are, will be, may be” (18).

“Within the very judicial modality of judgment, other types of assessment have
slipped in, profoundly altering its rules of elaboration” (19).

Old Question New Question

Has the act been established and is it punishable? What is this act, what is
this act of violence or this murder? To what level or to what field of reality
does it belong? Is it a phantasy, a psychotic reaction, a delusional episode, a
perverse action?
Who committed it? How can we assign the causal process that produced it?
Where did it originate in the author himself? instinct, unconscious,
environment, heredity?
What law punishes this offence? What would be the most appropriate
measures to take? How do we see the future development of the offender?
What would be the best way of rehabilitating him?

“A whole set of assessing, diagnostic, prognostic, normative judgments

concerning the criminal have become lodged in the framework of penal
judgment” (19).

“The reform of 1832, introducing attenuating circumstances, made it possible

to modify the sentence according to the supposed degrees of an illness or the
forms of a semi-insanity. And the practice of calling on psychiatric expertise .
. .means that the sentence, even if it is always formulated in terms of legal
punishment, implies . . .judgments of normality, attributions of causality,
assessments of possible changes, anticipations as to the offender’s future”

“The sentence that condemns or acquits is not simply a judgment of guilt, a

legal decision that lays down punishment’ it bears within it an assessment of
normality and a technical prescription for a possible normalization” (21).

“The whole machinery that has been developing for years around the
implementation of sentences and their adjustment to individuals creates a
proliferation of the authorities of judicial decision-making and extends its
powers of decision well beyond the sentence” (21).

“Let us examine the three questions to which [psychiatric experts] have to

address themselves:
(1) Does the convicted person represent a danger to society?
(2) Is he susceptible to penal punishment?
(3) Is he curable or readjustable?
“These questions have nothing to do with article 64, nor with the possible
insanity of the convicted person at the moment of the act. They do not
concern ‘responsibility.’ They concern nothing but the administration of the
penalty, its necessity, its usefulness, its possible effectiveness; they make it
possible to show, in an almost transparent vocabulary, whether the mental
hospital would be a more suitable place of confinement than the prison,
whether this confinement should be short or long, whether medical treatment
of security measures are called for. What, then, is the role of the psychiatrist
in penal matters? He is not an expert in responsibility, but an adviser on
punishment’ it is up to him to say whether the subject is ‘dangerous,’ in what
way one should be protected from him, how one should intervene to alter him,
whether it would be better to try to force him into submission or to treat him”

“To sum up, ever since the new penal system – that defined by the great
codes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – has been in operation, a
general process has led judges to judge something other than crimes; they
have been led in their sentences to do something other than judge; and the
power of judging has been transferred in part, to other authorities than the
judges of the offence. The whole penal operation has taken on extra-juridical
elements and personnel” (22).

“Today, criminal justice functions and justifies itself only by this perpetual
reference to something other than itself, by this unceasing reinscription in non-
juridical systems. Its fate is to be redefined by knowledge” (22).
“A corpus of knowledge, techniques, ‘scientific’ discourses is formed and
becomes entangled with the practice of the power to punish” (23).

Four guidelines of Foucault’s study:

(1) Do not concentrate the study of the punitive mechanisms on their
‘repressive’ effect alone, on their ‘punishment’ aspects alone, but situate them
in a whole series of their possible positive effects, even if these seem
marginal at first sight. As a consequence, regard punishment as a complex
social function.
(2) Analyse punitive methods not simply as consequences of legislation or as
indicators of social structures, but as techniques possessing their own
specificity in the more general field of other ways of exercising power. Regard
punishment as a political tactic.
(3) Instead of treating the history of penal law and the history of the human
sciences as two separate series whose overlapping appears to have had on
one or the other, or perhaps on both, a disturbing or useful effect, according to
one’s point of view, see whether there is not some common matrix or whether
they do not both derive from a single process of ‘epistemologico-juridical’
formation’ in short, make the technology of power the very principle both of
the humanization of the penal system and of the knowledge of man.
(4) Try to discover whether this entry of the soul onto the scene of penal
justice, and with it the insertion in legal practice of a whole corpus of ‘scientific’
knowledge, is not the effect of a transformation of the way in which the body
itself is invested by power relations.
“In short, try to study the metamorphosis of punitive methods on the basis of a
political technology of the body in which might be read a common history of
power relations and object relations. Thus, by an analysis of penal leniency
as a technique of power, one might understand both how man, the soul, the
normal or abnormal individual have come to duplicate crime as objects of
penal intervention; an din what way a specific mode of subjection was able to
give birth to man as an object of knowledge for a discourse with a ‘scientific’
status” (24).

Foucault references Rusche and Kirchheimer’s “great work”: Punishment and

Social Structures.

Introductory summaries of how the body is used in the penal system

We must rid ourselves of the illusion that penality is a means of reducing
crime and that it may be severe or lenient, tend towards expiation of obtaining
redress, towards the pursuit of individuals or the attribution of collective
responsibility (24).
-- We must analyse the concrete systems of punishment as social phenomena
that cannot be accounted for by the juridical structure of society alone, nor by
its ethical choices.
-- We must situate systems of punishment in their field of operation in which
the punishment of crime is not the sole element.
-- We must show that punitive measures are not simply ‘negative’
mechanisms that make it possible to repress, to prevent, to exclude, to
eliminate, but that they are linked to a whole series of positive and useful
effects which it is their task to support.
“In our societies, the systems of punishment are to be situated in a certain
‘political economy’ of the body: . . .it is always the body that is at issue – the
body and its forces, their utility and their docility, their distribution and their
submission” (25).

“The body is directly involved in a political field; power relations have an

immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry
out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. This political investment of
the body is bound up . . .with its economic use; it is largely as a force of
production that the body is invested with relations of power and domination;
but, on the other hand, its constitution as labour power is possible only if it is
caught up in a system of subjection in which need is also a political instrument
meticulously prepared, calculated and used; the body becomes a useful force
only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body” (25-6).

“There may be a ‘knowledge’ of the body that is not exactly the science of its
functioning, and a mastery of its forces that is more than the ability to conquer
them: this knowledge and this mastery constitute what might be called the
political technology of the body. This technology is diffuse, rarely formulated
in continuous, systematic discourse, made up of bits and pieces, implements
a disparate set of tools or methods, cannot be localized in a particular type of
institution or state apparatus” (26).

Power and the body

-- The power exercised on the body is conceived not as a property, but as a
-- Its effects of domination are attributed not to ‘appropriation,’ but to
dispositions, manoeuvres, tactics, techniques, functionings;
-- One should decipher in it a network of relations, constantly in tension, in
activity, rather than a privilege that one might possess;
-- One should take as its model a perpetual battle rather than a contract.
-- This power is exercised rather than possessed;
-- It is not the ‘privilege,’ acquired or preserved, of the dominant class, but the
overall effect of its strategic positions – an effect that is manifested and
sometimes extended by the position of those who are dominated.
-- This power is not exercised simply as an obligation or a prohibition on those
who ‘do not have it’; it invests them, is transmitted by them and through them;
it exerts pressure upon them, just as they themselves, in their struggle against
it, resist the grip it has on them. This means that these relations go right down
into the depths of society, that they are not localized in the relations between
the state and its citizens or on the frontier between classes and that they do
not merely reproduce, at the level of individuals, bodies, gestures, and
behavior, the general form of the law or government; that, although there is
continuity, there is neither analogy nor homology, but a specificity of
mechanism and modality.
-- Lastly, they are not univocal; they define innumerable points of
confrontation, focuses of instability, each of which has its own risks of conflict,
of struggles, and of an at least temporary inversion of the power relations”

“Power produces knowledge . . .power and knowledge directly imply one

another . . .there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a
field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and
constitute at the same time power relations. These ‘power-knowledge
relations’ are to be analysed [on the basis of] the subject who knows, the
objects to be known, and the modalities of knowledge must be regarded as so
many effects of these fundamental implications of power-knowledge and their
historical transformations” (28).

“It is not the activity of the subject of knowledge that produces a corpus of
knowledge . . .but power-knowledge, the processes and struggles that
traverse it and of which it is made up, that determines the forms and possible
domains of knowledge” (28).

The body politic: a set of material elements and techniques that serve as
weapons, relays, communication routes and supports for the power and
knowledge relations that invest human bodies and subjugate them by turning
them into objects of knowledge (28).

The “soul” exists, has a reality, is produced permanently around, on, and
within the body by the functioning of a power that is exercised on those
punished, on those one supervises, trains and corrects, over madmen,
children at home and at school, the colonized, over those who are stuck at a
machine and supervised for the rest of their lives. This soul is born of
methods of punishment, supervision and constraint. It is “the element in
which are articulated the effects of a certain type of power and the reference
of a certain type of knowledge, the machinery by which the power relations
give rise to a possible corpus of knowledge and knowledge extends and
reinforces the effects of this power” (29).

“The soul is the effect and instrument of a political anatomy” (30).

2. The spectacle of the scaffold

“Torture is a technique; it is not an extreme expression of lawless rage. To be
torture, punishment must obey three principal criteria:
(1) It must produce a certain degree of pain.
(2) The production of pain is regulated.
(3) Torture forms part of a ritual [that] meets two demands. It must mark the
victim . . .[and] public torture and execution must be spectacular” (33-4).

Eighteenth-century judicial practices

Aspects of judicial procedures:
-- “The secret and written form of the [judicial] procedure reflects the principle
that in criminal matters the establishment of truth was the absolute right and
the exclusive power of the sovereign and his judges” (35).
-- “We have, then, a penal arithmetic that is meticulous on many points, but
which still leaves a margin for a good deal of argument” (37).
-- “Written, secret, subjected, in order to construct its proofs, to rigorous rules,
the penal investigation was a machine that might produce the truth in the
absence of the accused” (37).
-- The power of the confession reduced the need for other evidence or
argument with the criminal’s acceptance of his own responsibility for his own
crime (37-8)
-- Judicial torture: the rule was that if the accused ‘held out’ and did not
confess, the magistrate was forced to drop the charges. Investigation and
punishment had become mixed (40-1).

Upon the pronouncement of guilt

The guilty man openly bore his condemnation and the truth of the crime he
had committed. His body served as the public support of a procedure and
had several aspects:
(1) It made the guilty man the herald of his own condemnation
(2) It took up again the scene of the confession
(3) It established the relation between the crime and the torture
(4) Demonstrated ultimate proof at the juncture of men’s judgment and God’s

“From the judicial torture to the execution, the body has produced and
reproduced the truth of the crime – or rather it constitutes the element which,
through a whole set of rituals and trials, confesses that the crime took place,
admits that the accused did indeed commit it, shows that he bore it inscribed
in himself and on himself, supports the operation of punishment and manifests
its effects in the most striking way. The body, several times tortured, provides
the synthesis of the reality of the deeds and the truth of the investigation, of
the documents of the case and the statements of the criminal, of the crime
and the punishment. It is an essential element, therefore, in a penal liturgy, in
which it must serve as the partner of a procedure ordered around the
formidable rights of the sovereign, the prosecution and secrecy” (47).

Public execution as political ritual

The law represents the will of the sovereign, thus transgression of the law
constitutes an attack on the sovereign.

Public execution:
-- restores the total power of the sovereign;
-- is an exercise of terror to make all aware of the unrestrained presence of
the sovereign;
-- reactivates power;
-- is a triumph of law.

The precise function of torture, then, had judicial and political purposes:
-- It revealed truth and showed the operation of power.
-- It assured the articulation of the written on the oral, the secret on the public,
the procedure of investigation on the operation of the confession.
-- It made it possible to reproduce the crime on the visible body of the criminal.
-- The crime had to be manifested and annulled.
-- It made the body of the condemned man the place where the vengeance of
the sovereign was applied, the anchoring point for a manifestation of power,
an opportunity of affirming the dissymmetry of forces.

“The people” and the popularization (romanticization?) of crime

In a public execution, “the people” played roles of audience, witness,
participant, and possible and indirect victim (68). In the history of public
execution, riots were an increasing possibility as the people disagreed with
the conviction. Thus, toward the end of this practice, “the great spectacle of
punishment ran the risk of being rejected by the very people to whom it was
addressed” (63)

“Never did the people feel more threatened than by legal violence exercised
without moderation or restraint. The solidarity of a whole section of the
population with those we would call petty offenders . . .was constantly
expressed . . .it was the breaking up of this solidarity that was becoming the
aim of penal and police repression” (63).

At the same time, more “crime literature” was being written that served to
heroicize criminals and their deeds (67).

Part Two: Punishment

Generalized punishment
In this section, Foucault describes the changing approach toward not only
punishment, but of what constituted crime and the (class of) people
considered criminal.

The call of eighteenth-century reformers: “Instead of taking revenge, criminal

justice should simply punish” (74). Changes in punishment marked the end of
the sovereign’s vengeance (74). “During this period, crimes seemed to lose
their violence while punishments lost some of their intensity, but at the cost of
greater intervention” (75).

“The shift from a criminality of blood to a criminality of fraud from part of a

whole complex mechanism embracing the development of production, the
increase of wealth, a higher juridical and moral value placed on property
relations, stricter methods of surveillance, a tighter partitioning of the
population, more efficient techniques of locating and obtaining information: the
shift in illegal practices is correlative with an extension and a refinement of
punitive practices” (77).

“What was emerging no doubt was not so much a new respect for the
humanity of the condemned – torture was still frequent in the execution of
even minor criminals – as a tendency towards a more finely tuned justice,
towards a closer penal mapping of the social body. Following a circular
process, the threshold of the passage to violent crimes rises, intolerance to
economic offences increases, controls become more thorough, penal
interventions at once more premature and more numerous” (78).
Regulating punishment and punishing “better”
The reformers were attacking the excessive nature of punishments, but “an
excess that was bound up with an irregularity even more than with an abuse
of the power to punish” (78). “The criticism of the reformers was directed not
so much at the weakness or cruelty of those in authority, as at a bad economy
of power” (79).

“The reform of criminal law must be read as a strategy for the rearrangement
of the power to punish, according to modalities that render it more regular,
more effective, more constant and more detailed in its effects; in short, which
increase its effects while diminishing its economic cost (that is to say, by
dissociating it from the system of property, of buying and selling, of corruption
in obtaining not only offices, but the decisions themselves) and its political
cost (by dissociating it from the arbitrariness of monarchical power)” (80-1).

“The power to judge should no longer depend on the innumerable,

discontinuous, sometimes contradictory privileges of sovereignty, but on the
continuously distributed effects of public power” (81).

“ ‘Reform,’ in the strict sense, as it was formulated in the theories of law or as

it was outlined in the various projects, was the political or philosophical
resumption of this strategy, with its primary objectives: to make of the
punishment and repression of illegalities a regular function, coextensive with
society; not to punish less, but to punish better’ to punish with an attenuated
severity perhaps, but in order to punish with more universality and necessity’
to insert the power to punish more deeply into the social body” (82).

“The illegality of property was separated from the illegality of rights. This
distinction represents a class opposition because, on the one hand, the
illegality that was to be most accessible to the lower classes was that of
property – the violent transfer of ownership – and because, on the other, the
bourgeoisie was to reserve to itself the illegality of rights: the possibility of
getting round its own regulations and its own laws, of ensuring for itself an
immense sector of economic circulation by a skillful manipulation of gaps in
the law – gaps that were foreseen by its silences, or opened up by de facto
tolerance” (87).

“And this great redistribution of illegalities was even to be expressed through a

specialization of the legal circuits: for illegalities of property – for theft – there
were the ordinary courts and punishments; for the illegalities of rights – fraud,
tax evasion, irregular commercial operations – special legal institutions
applied with transactions, accommodations, reduced fines, etc. The
bourgeoisie reserved to itself the fruitful domain of the illegality of rights. And
at the same time as this split was taking place, there emerged the need for a
constant policing concerned essentially with this illegality of property. It
became necessary to get rid of the old economy of the power to punish,
based on the principles of the confused and inadequate multiplicity of
authorities, the distribution and concentration of the power correlative with
actual inertia and inevitable tolerance, punishments that were spectacular in
their manifestations and haphazard in their application. It became necessary
to define a strategy and techniques of punishment in which an economy of
continuity and permanence would replace that of expenditure and excess. In
short, penal reform was born at the point of junction between the struggle
against the super-power of the sovereign and that against the infra[power of
acquired and tolerated illegalities. And if penal reform was anything more
than the temporary result of a purely circumstantial encounter, it was because,
between this super-power and this infra-power, a whole network of relations
was being formed” (87-8).

“Although the new criminal legislation appears to be characterized by less

severe penalties, a clearer codification, a marked diminution of the arbitrary, a
more generally accepted consensus concerning the power to punish (in the
absence of a more real division in its exercise), it is sustained in reality by an
upheaval in the traditional economy of illegalities and a rigorous application of
force to maintain their new adjustment. A penal system must be conceived as
a mechanism intended to administer illegalities differentially, not to eliminate
them all” (89).

The new theory of punishment

The essential raisons d’etre of penal reform in the eighteenth century:
-- Shift the object and change the scale;
-- Define new tactics in order to reach a target that is now more subtle but also
more widely spread in the social body;
-- Find new techniques for adjusting punishment to it and for adapting its
-- Lay down new principles for regularizing, refining, universalizing the art of
-- Homogenize its application;
-- Reduce its economic and political cost by increasing its effectiveness and
by multiplying its circuits;
-- In short, constitute a new economy and a new technology of the power to
punish (89)
Punishment took on a social contract model (89-90) where violations of the
law violated the contract of the society. “The right to punish has been shifted
from the vengeance of the sovereign to the defence of society” (90).

The major function of punishment is to prevent future crime. “One must

punish exactly enough to prevent repetition” (93).

“In a penality employing public torture and execution, example was the
answer to the crime; it had, by a sort of twin manifestation, to show the crime
and at the same time to show the sovereign power that mastered it; in a
penality calculated according to its own effects, example must refer back to
the crime, but in the most discreet way possible and with the greatest possible
economy indicate the intervention of power’ ideally, too, it should prevent any
subsequent reappearance of either” (93-4)

Five or six major rules of punishment:

-- The rule of minimum quantity (to create more interest in avoiding the
penalty than committing the crime)
-- The rule of sufficient ideality (the idea of pain needs to be a sufficient
-- The rule of lateral effects (punishment that has minimal effects for the
criminal and maximum effects on other members of society)
-- The rule of perfect certainty (clearly define and publish offenses and their
-- The rule of common truth (reason will be applied to determine the truth of
any criminal matter)
-- The rule of optimal specification (since punishment must prevent a
repetition of the offense, it must take into account the profound nature of the
criminal himself and individualize the penalty)

The new political anatomy emerging in the eighteenth century has two
intersecting lines of objectification: that which rejects the criminal from the side
of a nature against nature; and that which seeks to control delinquency by a
calculated economy of punishments that results in the supersession of the
punitive semio-technique by a new political of the body (103).

The gentle way in punishment

“The art of punishing must rest on a whole technology of representation”
Characteristics of obstacle-signs:
(1) Must be as unarbitrary as possible, natural, the punishment must proceed
from the crime; the law must appear to be the necessity of things, and power
must act while concealing itself beneath the gentle force of nature
(2) Reduce the desire that makes the crime attractive; increase the interest
that makes the penalty be feared; reverse the relation of intensities so that the
representation of the penalty and its disadvantages is more lively than that of
the crime and its pleasures
(3) Punishment must be temporary and its duration must be integrated into the
economy of the penalty
(4) Punishment must be seen as being in the individual’s best interest. There
must be no more secret, spectacular, or useless penalties. “Punishment must
be regarded as a retribution that the guilty man makes to each of his fellow
citizens for the crime that has wronged them all” (109). “The convict pays
twice: by the labour he provides and by the signs that he produces. At the
heart of socieyt, on the public squares or highways, the convict is a focus of
profit and signification. Visibly, he is serving everyone; but at the same time,
he lets slip into the minds of all the crime-punishment sign: a secondary,
purely moral, but much more real utility” (109).
(5) “The example is now based on the lesson, the discourse, the decipherable
sign, the representation of public morality” (110). “Each element of its ritual
must speak, repeat the crime, recall the law, show the need for punishment
and justify its degree. . .The publicity of punishment must not have the
physical effect of terror; it must open up a book to be read” (111).
(6) The criminal must not be glorified; the crime must be seen as a misfortune

Each punishment should teach a lesson; each punishment should be a fable

Punishment as imprisonment
“In under twenty years, the principle so clearly formulated in the Constituent
Assembly of specific, appropriate, effective penalties, constituting, in each
case, a lesson for all, became the law of detention for every offence of any
importance, except those requiring the death penalty” (116).

How did models of imprisonment come to be popular given all the reasons
against imprisonment?

Walnut Street prison as an example prison:

“Work on the prisoner’s soul must be carried out as often as possible. The
prison, though an administrative apparatus, will at the same time be a
machine for altering minds” (125).

“The most important thing [in a prison] was that this control and transformation
of behaviour were accompanied – both as a condition and as a consequence
– by the development of a knowledge of the individuals” (125). “This ever-
growing knowledge of the individuals made it possible to divide them up in the
prison not so much according to their crimes as according to the dispositions
that they revealed. The prison became a sort of permanent observatory that
made it possible to distribute the varieties of vice or weakness” (126).

Points of convergence between common views of eighteenth-century prison

reform and the idea of imprisonment as punishment:
(1) There is a difference in the temporal direction of punishment.
(2) One punishes to transform a criminal.
(3) The system must be open to individual variables.

Disparities between common views of eighteenth-century prison reform and

the idea of imprisonment as punishment:
(1) Techniques of individualizing correction.
(2) Imprisonment relies not on representations, but on a studied manipulation
of the individual.
(3) Relation between individual being punished and the individual doing the
(4) Imprisonment relies on secrecy.

“Punitive city or coercive institution? On the one hand, a functioning of penal

power, distributed throughout the social space; present everywhere as scene,
spectacle, sign, discourse; legible like an open book; operating by a
permanent recodification of the mind of the citizens; eliminating crime by
those obstacles placed before the idea of crime; acting invisibly and uselessly
on the ‘soft fibres of the brain,’ as Servan put it. A power to punish that ran
the whole length of the social network would act at each of its points, and in
the end would no longer be perceived as a power of certain individuals over
others, but as an immediate reaction of all in relation to the individual. On the
other hand, a compact functioning of the power to punish: a meticulous
assumption of responsibility for the body and the time of the convict, a
regulation of his movements and behaviour by a system of authority and
knowledge; a concerted orthopaedy applied to convicts in order to reclaim
them individually; an autonomous administration of this power that is isolated
both from the social body and from the judicial power in the strict sense. The
emergence of the prison marks the institutionalization of the power to punish,
or, to be more precise: will the power to punish be better served by concealing
itself beneath a general social function, in the ‘punitive city,’ or by investing
itself in a coercive institution, in the enclosed space of the ‘reformatory’?”

Part Three: Discipline

Docile bodies
“In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the disciplines
became general formulas of domination” (137):
-- Working the body at the level of movements, gestures, attitudes: an
infinitesimal power over the active body
-- Object was the efficiency of movements, their internal organization
-- Uninterrupted, constant coercion, supervising the processes of the activity
rather than its result; exercised according to a codification that partitions time,
space, movement as closely as possible.

“Discipline produces subjected and practiced bodies, ‘docile’ bodies.

Discipline increases the forces of the body (in economic terms of utility) and
diminishes these same forces (in political terms of obedience). In short, it
dissociates power from the body; on the one hand, it turns it into an ‘aptitude,’
a ‘capacity,’ which it seeks to increase; on the other hand, it reverses the
course of the energy, the power that might result from it, and turns it into a
relation of strict subjection. If economic exploitation separates the force and
the product of labour, let us say that disciplinary coercion establishes in the
body the constricting link between an increased aptitude and an increased
domination” (138).

“Small acts of cunning endowed with a great power of diffusion, subtle

arrangements, apparently innocent, but profoundly suspicious, mechanisms
that obeyed economies too shameful to be acknowledged, or pursued petty
forms of coercion – it was nevertheless they that brought about the mutation
of the punitive system” (139).

“No detail is unimportant, but not so much for the meaning that it conceals
within it as for the hold it provides for the power that wishes to seize it” (140).

“A meticulous observation of detail, and at the same time a political

awareness of these small things, for the control and use of men, emerge
through the classical age bearing with them a whole set of techniques, a
whole corpus of methods and knowledge, descriptions, plans, and data. And
from such trifles, no doubt, the man of modern humanism was born” (141).
The art of distributions
“Discipline proceeds from the distribution of individuals in space,” which
employs the following techniques:
(1) Enclosure – a place heterogeneous to all others and closed in upon itself,
e.g., the monastery, army barracks, factories
(2) Partitioning – each individual has his own place and each place its
individual, e.g., the monastic cell
(3) Functional sites – space that allowed supervision, disabled communication
between individuals, and was useful
(4) Rank – the place one occupies in a classification. One’s distribution and
circulation in relation to others.

The table: in the form of disciplinary distribution, it distributes multiplicity and

derives as many effects from it as possible. Disciplinary tactics are situated
on the axis that links the singular and the multiple. It allows the
characterization of the individual as individual and the ordering of a given
multiplicity (149).

The control of activity

(1) The time-table (a general framework for activity, increasing partitioning of
time, attempt to insure the quality of time [eliminate distractions and
disturbances], how to constitute a totally useful time?)
(2) Temporal elaboration of the act (a collective and obligatory rhythm,
assures the elaboration of the act itself, controls its development and its
stages from the inside. “The act is broken down into its elements; the position
of the body, limbs, articulations is defined; to each movement are assigned a
direction, an aptitude, a duration; their order of succession is prescribed”
(3) Correlation of the body and the gesture (imposes the best relation between
a gesture and the overall position of the body, which is its condition of
efficiency and speech)
(4) Body-object articulation (defines each of the relations that the body must
have with the object that it manipulates)
(5) Exhaustive use (the question of extracting from time more available
moments and more useful forces)

The organization of geneses

How can one organize profitable durations? The disciplines, which analyse
space, break up and rearrange activities, must also be understood as
machinery for adding up and capitalizing time:
(1) Divide duration into successive or parallel segments, each of which must
end at a specific time
(2) Organize threads according to an analytical plan – successions of
elements as simple as possible, combining according to increasing complexity
(3) Finalize these temporal segments, decide on how long each will last and
conclude it with an exam, which will have the triple function of showing
whether the subject has reached the level required, of guaranteeing that each
subject undergoes the same apprenticeship and of differentiating the abilities
of each individual.
(4) Draw up series of series; lay down for each individual, according to his
rank, etc., the exercises that are suited to him.
This is an exercise: the technique by which one imposes on the body tasks
that are both repetitive and different, but always graduated. By bending
behaviour towards a terminal state, exercise makes possible a perpetual
characterization of the individual either in relation to this term, in relation to
other individuals, or in relation to a type of itinerary. It thus assures, in the
form of continuity and constraint, a growth, an observation, a qualification.

“Exercise, having become an element in the political technology of the body

and of duration, does not culminate in a beyond, but tends towards a
subjection that has never reached its limit” (162).

The composition of forces

How to compose a force greater than the sum of its parts? This demand is
expressed in the following ways:
(1) The body is constituted as a part of a multisegmentary machine.
(2) The chronological series that discipline must combine to form a composite
time are also pieces of machinery.
(3) The combination of forces requires a precise system of command. Forces
must react to signals as triggers.

“Discipline creates out of the bodies it controls . . .an individuality endowed

with four characteristics: it is cellular (by the play of spatial distribution),
organic (by the coding of activities), genetic (by the accumulation of time),
combinatory (by the composition of forces). And in doing so, it operates four
great techniques: it draws up tables: it prescribes movements; it imposes
exercises; lastly, in order to obtain the combination of forces, it arranges
‘tactics’” (167).

Part III, ch 2
Foucault begins his discussion of the “coercion of bodies” (169) by informing
us that “[T]he chief function of the disciplinary power is to ‘train.” “Instead of
bending all its subjects into a single uniform mass, it separates, analyzes,
differentiates, carries its procedures of decomposition to the point of
necessary and sufficient single units…Discipline ‘makes’ individuals; it is the
specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as
instruments of its exercise.” This is the beginning of the invasion of the “great
forms” and mechanisms of the sovereign or state by disciplinary power in the
form of “humble modalities” Foucault considers three “simple instruments” of
disciplinary power:
“hierarchical observation” (pp. 170-177)
“normalizing judgement and” (pp. 177-184)
“the examination” (pp. 184-192)

Hierarchical Observation
“The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means
of observation” (170). “[T]he means of coercion make those on whom they
are applied clearly visible,” and improvements on technology increased the
potential for observation (171). Foucault gives a description of a military camp
as both an example of “a power that acts by means of general visibility” and
as a model of principles “found in urban development, in the construction of
working-class housing estates, hospitals, asylums, prisons, schools: the
spatial ‘nesting’ of hierarchized surveillance (171-72).

Structures of this sort, including hospitals, were designed with at least as

great a concern for controlling the people and spaces it contained as for
external considerations (172). The Ecole Militaire, for instance, was designed
to allow for observation of students in their quarters, during meals, and in the
latrine. A more “continuous power” is achieved through the establishment of
“a perfect eye that nothing would escape and a centre towards which all
gazes would be turned,” as was attempted in the Arc-et-Senans (173) with its
circular structure. Pyramid structures were found to be even more effective
for their ability to allow for “relays” and to 1: “form an uninterrupted network”
with “the possibility of multiplying its levels;” 2: “be discreet enough” to keep
from preventing the operations of the structure (174). As is the case in the
industrial factory, where, according to the reasoning of the powerful, any
“dishonesty” is apt to be multiplied and could “prove fatal” (175). Thus the
guild-style system of management by masters was replaced by management
by company “agents.” “Surveillance thus becomes a decisive economic
operator both as an internal part of the production machinery and as a specific
mechanism in the disciplinary power” (175). Foucault continues on to
elementary teaching where “the details of surveillance were specified and it
was integrated into the teaching relationship (175) through careful monitoring,
and, later, in the case of Demia, the use of teaching assistants. Demia’s
model is presented as “an institution of the ‘mutual type’” in which Teaching
proper, the acquisition of knowledge,” and “observation” (176).

Foucault comments here on the ability of power to operate as “an ‘integrated’

system (176) which allows for both hierarchical and lateral practices of power
that systemic and individual: “Discipline makes possible the operation of a
relational power that sustains itself by its own mechanism and which, for the
spectacle of public events, substitutes the uninterrupted play of calculated
gazes…the hold over the body…is a power that seems all the less ‘corporal’
in that it is more subtly ‘physical’” (177).

Normalizing Judgement (sic)

1. Here Foucault presents us with the role of judgment in juvenile settings,

such as “the orphanage of the Chevalier Paulet,” where students held morning
tribunals to mete out punishments to their peers, at which point he observes:
“At the heart of all disciplinary systems functions a small penal mechanism”
(177). “The workshop, the school, the army were subject to a whole micro-
penality of time...of activity…of behavior…of speech…of the body…of
sexuality” (ellipses mark parenthetical examples by Foucault) resulting in a
state in which one was always punishing and punishable.

2. Foucault warns us here that the punishment of discipline was not just that
of a “small-scale model of the court” (178). Judgment was passed on those,
student or soldier, who did not achieve or perform to the dictated level. These
observable deficiencies resulted in both punishment and public relegation, in
the case of the student, to “the bench of the ‘ignorant.’ In a disciplinary
regime punishment involves a double juridico-natural reference” (179).

3. Here Foucault argues that “Disciplinary punishment,” ostensibly, “has the

function of reducing gaps.” It must therefore be essentially corrective” (179):
The demoted corporal must regain his rank, the failing student, work and
rework a lesson. “Disciplinary punishment is, in the main, isomorphic with
obligation itself,” as, “To punish is to exercise” (180).

4. Punishment here is seen as “only one element of a double system (of)

gratification-punishment” which “operates in the process of training and
correction” through the careful definition and bestowal of rewards (180).
Foucault uses a typically illustrative example of students living in a “micro-
economy of privileges and impositions in the Christian Schools, where a
“transposition of the system of indulgences” (basically, you could get out of
catechism exercises by building up points) allowed for the continuous ranking
of students between poles of good and bad. Here judgment was passed on
more than an act. This “knowledge of individuals” judged/ranked the potential
and value of the child.

5. Here Foucault exposes ranking and grading as means of punishment and

reward through the example of the “Ecole Militaire’s four (and sometimes five)
levels of achievement assessed by “officers, teachers, and their assistants,”
based on “’the moral qualities of the pupils’ and on ‘their universally
recognized behavior,” and visually registered through the use of various colors
of epaulettes (and maybe sackcloth) (181-182). The reasoning was,
apparently, that the lowest, most shamed, ranks “existed only to disappear”
(182), that is, to work their way up the epaulette-al hierarchy. This served the
purpose of both classifying and encouraging conformity, according to
Foucault. As he puts it: “the art of punishing, in the regime of disciplinary
power, is aimed neither at expiation, nor even precisely at repression,” but at
the following:
1. “It refers individual actions to a whole that is at once a field of
comparison, a space of differentiation and the principle of a rule to be
2. “It differentiates individuals from one another’
3. “It measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value the
abilities, the level, the ‘nature’ of individuals”
4. “It introduces…the constraint of a conformity that must be achieved.”
5. It defines the “abnormal” (182-183)

“In short, it normalizes” (183). Here Foucault contrasts the disciplinary to the
“judicial penality,” which referenced laws and binaries of moralities not
observed individuals and rankings. It is the “penality of the norm” that brought
about modern penality, not advent of human sciences, etc (183). “The
Normal” is perpetuated through institutions and manages to both homogenize
(through conformity)and individualize (through ranks and assessments).
Through measurement , “the norm introduces…all the shading of individual
differences” in a homogenized setting (184).

The Examination

“The examination,” according to Foucault, “combines the techniques of an

observing hierarchy and those of a normalizing judgment” (184). After briefly
lamenting the lack of pre-Foucault scholarship on this concept, the author
offers the examples of the hospital (pp. 185-186), with its secularization and
transformation into a place for observation, and the school (pp. 186-187), with
its transformation into the pedagogical science of evaluating and ranking.

Foucault then presents three linkages that examinations created between “a

certain type of the formation of knowledge” and “a certain from of the exercise
of power” (187):

1. “The examination transformed the economy of visibility into the exercise of

power” (pp. 187-189)
Here, through the example of Louis XIV’s “first military review,” Foucault
reminds us of the shift in visibility from the punisher to the punished and
explains that the examination is the “mechanism of objectification” in which
“disciplinary power manifests its potency, essentially, by arranging objects.”

2. “The examination also introduces individuality into the field of

documentation” (pp. 189-191)
“The examination leaves behind it a whole meticulous archive,” through the
act of “power writing.” The transcription and fixing of norms allowed also for
the continuous analysis of the individual and the application of a “comparative
system” in which to place said individual.

3. “The examination, surrounded by all its documentary techniques, makes

each individual a ‘case’” (pp. 191-192).
Disciplinary power “lowered the threshold of describable individuality and
made of this description a means of control and method of domination”
whereby the case is no longer “a set of circumstances” but a documented

Disciplines, then, “mark the moment when the reversal of the political axis of
individualization…takes place” (192). Whereas in the “feudal regime” the
practice and display of power made the powerful individual visible, in the
“disciplinary regime…individualization is ‘descending:’ as power becomes
more anonymous and more functional, those on whom it is exercised tend to
be more strongly individualized” (193). Here Foucault makes the productive
power of discipline explicit: “We must cease once and for all to describe the
effects of power in negative terms…[P]ower produces; it produces reality; it
produces domains of objects and rituals of truth,” in short, the “individual”
How, then, he asks, could “such power (be derived) from the petty
machinations of discipline” (194)? The answer:

Part III, ch 3: Panopticism

Foucault’s discussion of the Panopticon proper is preceded by the legacies of

the plague and the leper (195-200). Plague control at the end of the 17th
century prescribed the creation inspectors and the transformation of the home
into an “enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point,” in which
individuals were the objects of writing, observation, and power. Thus, the
plague, symbol of “all forms of confusion and disorder,” was “met by order”
and analytic power; those acts and individuals that fell outside of this
discipline were “contagions.” Foucault contrasts the system of order
established by the plague to the exclusionary, binary principals that defined
the leper and the “clean” (my term). “All the mechanisms of power” that the
modern individual is subjected to “are composed of those two forms from
which they distantly derive.”

Bentham’s Panopticon is the physical manifestation of these forms. In it

(visuals are widely available on the Web), the prisoner, who occupies the
periphery of the circular structure, is visible to the guards, and invisible to the
other prisoners. Foucault contrasts this to the dungeon, which served “to
enclose, to deprive of light and to hide” (200). The exposed inmate is “is the
object of information, never a subject in communication” as one might be in a
dungeon (200). In all settings, panopticism replaces crowds, and their
“collective effect[s]” with “collection[s] of separated individualities” (201).
“Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of
conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of
power” so that the effects are continuous and internalized, and the practice of
surveillance always a possibility (see p. 201 for more description and
discussion). This “machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad” can be
operated by anyone, increasing the likelihood of, and anxiety regarding,
observation (202). The “houses of security” were to be replaced by this
“house of certainty” (202). The Panopticon was “also a laboratory” (203), “a
privileged place from experiments on men, and for analyzing with complete
certainty the transformations that may be obtained from them” (204).

Where the “plague-stricken town” was simple model of mechanical control or

exclusion, the Panopticon “must be understood as a generalizable model of
functioning; a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of
men” applicable to “hospitals, workshops, schools, and prisons” (205). It is
numerically efficient, continuously able to intervene yet never needing to, and
“acts directly on individuals” (206) regardless of scale. Lest we get too caught
up in his machine metaphor, Foucault warns us that the exercise of power
takes place within the machine; power the Panopticon “is a way of making
power relations function in a function, and of making a function through these
power relations (206-207). This interior/exterior distinction gets a bit fuzzy
when he goes on to discuss the Panopticon as open to the outsiders who
would take part in observation: “it has become a transparent building in which
the exercise of power may be supervised by society as a whole” (207). This
seeming democratization of power is key to its being applied in the name of
“progress” (208).

This transformation from the “discipline-blockade” to the “discipline

mechanism” was born in the rise of disciplinary thought in the 17th-18th
centuries and concrete applications became models for entire disciplines.
The spread of “disciplinary institutions” is likened to other “more profound
processes,” of which this spread is an aspect:

1. “The functional inversion of the disciplines.” (pp. 210-211)

Whereas the roles of institutions were once defined in negative terms

(neutralize, fix, avoid), “disciplines function increasingly as techniques for
making useful individuals.” This utility led to their being associated with the
“most important, most central and most productive sectors of society
(education, training, war-making).

2. “The swarming of disciplinary mechanisms.” (pp. 211-212)

The methodologies of schools, hospitals, and other institutions came to be

applied by these institutions on the communities and individuals around them.
These institutions also became “centers of observations” for the societies
around them, subverting the traditional power of the church.

3. “The state control of the disciplinary mechanisms.” (pp. 213-217)

Here we are warned that the secularization of power and its shift from
monarchic control, as with the police in Foucault’s example, is not a complete
shift of disciplinary functions to the “state apparatus,” as “’Discipline’ may be
identified neither with an institution nor with an apparatus; it is a type of power,
a modality for its exercise” (215): “one can speak of the formation of a
disciplinary society…[n]ot because the disciplinary modality of power has
replaced all the others; but because it has infiltrated the others” (216).
Foucault sums-up the shift from the spectacle to the surveilled that is made
concrete in Bentham’s Panopticon in a lyrical discussion on pp. 216-217,
where we are reminded that this has been a shift from persons being
“repressed” to individuals “fabricated” into a “social order.”

On pages 218-228, Foucault locates “[t]he formulation of disciplinary society”

in the context of a “a number of broad historical processes” (roughly three):

1. Economic processes (pp. 218-221)

Disciplines “try to define in relation to the (human) multiplicities a tactics of
power that fulfills three criteria:” lowest cost, maximized social power, and
linkage to “the output of the apparatuses … within which it is exercised; in
short to increase both the docility and the utility of all the elements of the
system” (218). In the 18th century, this shift was concurrent with mobile
populations and increased production capacities. While the old “economy of
power” was wont to use violence to achieve control, discipline attempted to
“adjust” people and apparatuses in order to “counter the advantages of
number” through regimentation (219-220). This brings us to something of a
definition: “discipline is the unitary technique by which the body is reduced as
a ‘political’ force at the least cost and maximized as a useful force.” Not
surprisingly, Foucault ties the rise of “a capitalist economy” to the proliferation
of panoptic (?) power (221).

2. “Juridico-political” processes (pp.221-224)

Panopticism is neither an “extension” of, or independent of “juridico-political”
power (221-222). Panopticism works it coercive force on the formal systems,
even as the rise of the middle class attempted to create a codified legal
framework (222). Discipline acts as a “counter-law” and, through the “minute
disciplines, the panopticisms of every day” works it subtle magic against the
more obvious mechanisms of the juridico-political (223). This why the
“smallest techniques of discipline” (those most associated with the body?) are
experienced or perceived as most “foundational” (223). The prison’s power to
punish has become the power to observe, selectively prosecute, and train, not
through the “universal consciousness of the law in each juridical subject” but
through “the infinitely minute web of panoptic techniques” (224).

3. Scientific processes (224-228)

By the 18th century, these techniques achieved “a level at which the formation
of knowledge and the increase of power regularly reinforce one another in a
circular process.” Within institutions, the growth of power could give rise to
new knowledge or methodologies for control. Foucault refers to this as a
“double process…an epistemological thaw” (224). Foucault goes on to draw a
parallel between disciplinary examination and judicial inquisition or
investigation, noting the relationship between inquisition and the rise of
empirical methods (225-226). While investigation in the empirical sciences
have managed to “become detached from its politico-juridical model,” the
examination has not ( 227). Penal justice today is both inquisitorial and
disciplinary. Where the justice of the (spectacular) Ancien Regime was at its
“extreme” in the “infinite segmentation of the body of the regicide…The ideal
point of penality today would be an indefinite discipline; an interrogation
without end…a procedure that would be…the permanent measure of a gap in
relation to an inaccessible norm and the asymptotic movement that strives to
meet in infinity (227). The final sentence of Part III (p228) reads: “Is it
surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which
all resemble prisons?”

Part IV, ch 1. Complete and austere institutions

The turn of the 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of detention as “the
penalty par excellence” (231). However, the “birth of the prison” was marked
by conjunction of a “justice that is supposed to be ‘equal’” and “a legal
machinery that is supposed to be ‘autonomous,’ but which contains all the
asymmetries of disciplinary subjection” (231-232). Foucault laments that the
concept of the prison has since become so naturalized that alternatives seem
unthinkable. It even seems to be an egalitarian punishment in that time is
assessed as opposed to fine in reparation for an offense against society.
Foucault intends to further investigate the “transformative role” of the prison,
and he cautions us to remember that the prison has been, from its beginnings
in the 19th century, a means of both “deprivation of liberty and the technical
transformation of individuals” (233), and he cites numerous sources to support
the importance of the latter. He also argues that prison “reform” has been
around for as long as prisons have, and that said reforms are a part of the
penal process, not an interruption of it (234-235), and that “in becoming a
legal punishment, (the prison) weighted the old juridico-political question of
the right to punish with all the problems, all the agitations that have
surrounded the corrective technologies of the individual” (235).

Foucault draws the chapter title, “complete and austere institutions,” from an
“L. Baltard” (pub. 1829; see “Bibliography”) in order to portray the exhaustive,
uninterrupted, and “despotic” disciplinary power of the prison (235-236), which
was to be applied to the re-education and “recoding of existence” of the
prisoner. This is contrasted with simple detainment and “the simple
mechanism of exempla imagined by the reformers at the time of the
idealogues” (236). He lays out the principles of the disciplinary prison as

1. Isolation: He finds three primary reasons or functions for isolation: to

prevent collaboration and recidivism, to promote reformatory practice, and to
create a situation in which the words and power of the imprisoning and
reforming power will take on even greater authority due to the relative silence
of all others’ (236-237). He then contrasts the Auburn and Pennsylvania
models for prisons, which posited limited interaction with other prisoners while
working (reproducing exterior labor conditions) and utter solitude, respectively

2. Work: Through numerous citations, Foucault pursues the question of the

role of work in the prisons. Long-running debates in France pitted those who
considered prison labor to be a magnet for the indigent and competition for
the “free” laborer against a penal system that argued that prison labor offered
little to no competition and that prisoners work and wages were their incentive
for reform. Foucault takes a third position: that prison labor was about “the
constitution of a power relation” (pp. 239-243).

3. “The Declaration of Carceral Independence” (247): Prison “[became]

increasingly an instrument for the modulation of the penalty; and apparatus
which, through the execution of the sentence with which it is entrusted, seems
to have the right, in part at least, to assume its principle” (244). In assuming
the responsibility for the means and extent of punishment and reform, the
prison claims “the right to be a power that not only possesses administrative
autonomy, but is also a part of punitive sovereignty” (247).

The above techniques, to the extent that they exceed the state of detention,
then, are to be know as the “penitentiary” (248). The penitentiary, Foucault
argues, became a trap not only for prisoners, but for “penal justice” and
judges, “because it was able to introduce criminal justice into relations of
knowledge that have since become its infinite labyrinth (249). The prisons
observed not just for immediate control, but also to create a body of
knowledge regarding the individual and his response to reformation in order
“to exact unceasingly form the inmate a body of knowledge that will make it
possible to transform the penal measure into penitentiary operations” (251).
As the “offender becomes an individual to know,” a new character is created:
that of the “delinquent,” who is characterized less by his act” (offense) than by
his life (251). For the re-education of the prisoner to be complete, the
“penitentiary operation… must become the sum total existence of the
delinquent, making of the prison a sort of artificial and coercive theatre in
which his life will be examined from top to bottom” (251-252). This
“biographical” approach to understanding the delinquent “establishes the
‘criminal’ as existing before the crime and even outside it.” This psycho-social
concept of the “dangerous individual” is, according to Foucault, still with us
today (252), and came to be categorized and documented, ultimately a
“biographical unity, a kernel of danger, representing a type of anomaly” (254).
The dangerous individual, or delinquent, is an amalgamation of 18th century
prison objects: the extra-societal “monster” and the “juridical subject
rehabilitated by punishment” (255).

Part IV, ch 2. Illegalities and delinquency

Here Foucault begins with a discussion of the change from “chain-gang” to

“police carriage” as “a symptom and a symbol” of the transition (or “mutation”)
from the public display of power to the penality of prison (257). The chain
gang of the turn of the century was a manifestation of both detention and
public torture (255). Foucault paints a vivid picture of the dangerous, public
applications of the chains and processions in which crowds participated in the
spectacle as if in a festival or carnival, taunting and/or studying the
condemned in what Foucault describes as part game, part “ethnology of
crime” (259), in that the prisoner was the subject of speculation as much as
spectacle. The chain-gang of early 19th century France, like the scaffold, was
as dangerous as it was public however, and the crowd, as well as the
prisoner, were able to apply meanings to the sentence and presence of the
condemned that were not those intended or sanctioned by the judges (259-
263). This means of transportation was replaced, in 1837, with “a mobile
equivalent of the panopticon,” a cart in which detainees of all varieties were
sequestered into cells, observable by a center corridor by hidden from the
view of the public, and prevented from interaction with one another, under
constant surveillance and punishment by warders, and restricted to self-
corrective thoughts and readings (263-264).

The years 1820-1845 also saw a critique of the prison, according to Foucault,
who cautions us against seeking to “pat” a timeline. He discusses five major
critiques, which, we are told, are “today repeated almost unchanged” (265; as
with previous discussions, Foucault cites 19th century sources throughout):

1. “Detention causes recidivism” (pp. 265-266): Foucault cites numerous

arguments and figures regarding recidivism rates in support of his observation
that prisons were producing delinquents, not “corrected individuals.”

2. Prisons produce delinquents “by the very conditions (they) impose upon
(their) inmates” (266-267): “Useless work,” “violent constraints,” and various
abuses of power are cited.

3. Prisons bring together delinquents who then collaborate with one another
(267): Among his more memorable citations are references to prisons as
settings for “anti-social clubs” and “barracks of crime.”

4. Ex-convict status and the markings and surveillance that come with it
promotes recidivism 267-268).

5. “[T]he prison indirectly produces delinquents by throwing the inmate’s

family into destitution” (268).

The above critiques, addressed by claiming either a “rudimentary” state of

corrective measures or that corrective measures detract from the ability to
punish, were/are always rectified by the continued application of “penitentiary
technique: “For a century and a half the prison had always been offered as its
own remedy” (268). In an explicit reference to current (early nineteen-
seventies) conditions, he argues that there has been a continuous appeal to
the “seven universal maxims of the good ‘penitential condition’” (for above,
see 268-269; for items 1-7, pp. 269-270):

1. “Penal detention must have as its essential function the transformation of

the individual’s behavior.”
2. “Convicts must be isolated or at least distributed according to the penal
gravity of their act, but above all according to age, mental attitude, the
technique of correction to be used, the stages of their transformation.”
3. “It must be possible to alter the penalties according to the individuality of
the convicts, the results that have been obtained, progress or relapses.
4. “Work must be one of the essential elements in the transformation and
progressive socialization of convicts.”
5. “The education of the prisoner is for the authorities both an indispensable
precaution in the interests of society and an obligation to the prisoner.”
6. “The Prison regime must, at least in part, be supervised and administered
by a specialized staff possessing the moral qualities and technical abilities
required of educators.”
7. “Imprisonment must be followed by measures of supervision and
assistance until the rehabilitation of the former prisoner is complete.”

These continuously resurfacing “propositions,” serve uphold Foucault’s

assertion that there is not a three-stage history of the prison, its failure, and
reform, but a “simultaneous system,” a “fourfold system” made up of: the
“super-power (of)…penitentiary ‘rationality;” “auxiliary knowledge” (or
reproduction) of criminality; “inverted efficiency; reform as “isomorphic…with
the disciplinary functioning of the prison – the element of utopian duplication”
(271). This “supposed failure” is, then, one of the “effects of power…which
may be grouped together under the name of ‘carceral system’” (271).

Having established “the failure(s) of the prison” (272), Foucault moves on to

argue that they, and the effects (particularly of marking or establishing the
delinquent) have not been abandoned because “the prison, and no doubt
punishment in general, is not intended to eliminate offences, but rather to
distinguish them, to distribute them, to use them;…they tend to assimilate the
transgression of the laws in a general tactics of subjection,” creating an
“economy” of “illegalities” (272).

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, “popular illegalities began to develop
according to new dimensions…introduced by movements which…linked
together social conflicts, the struggles against the political regimes, the
resistance to the movement of industrialization, the effects of economic rises.
The “development of the political dimension of the popular illegalities” were
based in local actions (273-274), the “rejection of the law or other regulation”
as struggle against those who enacted them (274), and the increases in
regulatory functions of those wielding political or economic authority leading to
an increase in “the occasions of offences” by those who would otherwise have
been within the law (273-275). This increased politicization is tied by Foucault
t to the changing role of the ‘working-class” in 19th century France and he
cites numerous sources in support of the “class dissymmetry” affecting the
application of “law and justice” (276). Delinquency, as a form of illegality,
again becomes a means by which to categorize, etc, on behalf of the “carceral
system” (277). Foucault sums up: “We have seen how the carceral system
substituted the ‘delinquent’ for the offender, and also superimposed upon
juridical practice a whole horizon of possible knowledge” all of which “enables
them to reinforce one another perpetually, to objectify the delinquency behind
the offence, to solidify delinquency in the movement of illegalities” (277).

Why and how, then, he asks, does penality invest certain practices “in a
mechanism of ‘punishment-reproduction?” His first assertion is that by
defining and controlling a criminal element, a more supervisable, manipulable
group diffuses the possibility for more disruptive (political) illegalities (278-
279). His second is that it is used as form of “colonialism,” even domestically;
for instance as a mechanism for reaping the profits of prostitution and other
illegalities (279-280). His third, the political use of delinquents as “thugs” or
a “clandestine police force” in labor struggles in particular, all of which is made
possible by surveillance and documentation in collaboration with the prison
and judges (280-282). On pages 282-285 explores the biographies of Vidocq,
cop and criminal who ended the “Shakespearian age when sovereignty
confronted abomination in a single character” (283) and Francois Lacenaire,
fallen bourgeois criminal and cause celèbre.

Foucault describes the “production of delinquency” as a continuously shifting

process, as opposed to a “result,” in which the delinquents are separated from
and made to be demonized by the rest of the lower class populations,
particularly in relation to labor struggles. All of which is described as “a whole
tactic of confusion aimed at maintaining a permanent state of conflict” (285-
286). This was supplemented by a “patient attempt” to portray the criminal as
ever-present and “everywhere to be feared” in the newspapers and novels of
the time. By the end of the nineteenth century, the worker’s newspapers were
actively campaigning “against penal labor” (286-287). This position is
modified a bit to recognize that workers newspapers didn’t solely vilify the
criminal, but blamed societal conditions for forcing the criminal into desperate
measures. Foucault argues that even these observations fell short of
recognizing “delinquency from above...the source of misery and the principle
of revolt for the poor” (287). It is, apparently, the increase in workers as
political prisoners that leads the “reappraisal of penal justice” and the tactic of
the “counter-fait divers,” which portrayed the decadent bourgeoisie as the
ever-present criminal (288).
Foucault cites the Fourierists as “the first to elaborate a political theory
which...places a positive value on crime.” He argues that they recognized “not
a criminal nature, but a play of forces which, according to the class to which
individuals belong, will lead them to power or to prison (289). This, then was
a recognition of penality as political tool and of the “play of opposing forces” in
which the prol’s were caught (289-290).
He moves then to a third figure, a thirteen year old featured by La Phalange
who “opposed to the discourse of the law that made him delinquent... the
discourse of an illegality that remained resistant to these coercions and which
revealed indiscipline in a systematically ambiguous manner as the disordered
order of society and as the affirmation of inalienable rights” (290). Through
the boy’s dialogue with his sentencing judge the paper, and Foucault,
discussed the “violent split between the accused and society,” between the
society and system that renders “the worker a slave.” This discourse, which
Foucault notes may not be representative of the discourse of the workers
newspapers, as the precursor of the recognition of “the political problem of
delinquency” and “the most militant rejection of the law” and the awareness of
the bourgeois system of “legality and illegality” (292).

Part IV, ch 3. The carceral

Foucault chooses January 22, 1840, “the date of the official opening of
Mettray,” as the “date of completion of the carceral system” (293). Mettray, a
prison for the underage, he explains, “is the disciplinary form at its most
extreme, the model in which are concentrated all the coercive technologies of
behavior:” the family, the army, the workshop, the school, and the judicial
model” (293-294). Here, “the entire parapenal institution, which is created in
order not to be a prison, culminates in the cell, on the walls of which are
written in black letters: ‘God sees you” (294). The “chiefs and their deputies at
Mettray...were in a sense technicians of behavior: engineers of conduct,
orthopaedists of individuality” who produced controllable bodies through their
training (294-295). Foucault explicitly argues that Mettray produced inmates
who would then become the technicians of control in “the first training college
pure discipline” (295).

At this time power-knowledge, upheld by psychiatry and the “judicial

apparatus,” “(normalized) the power of normalization,” and made warders out
of prisoners (296). It was “the most famous of a whole series of institutions
which, well beyond the frontiers of criminal law, constituted what one might
call the carceral archipelago” (297).

This time, minors were ostensibly being protected from the prison, then, is the
moment when, according to Foucault, penality escapes transcends the
boundaries of the prison proper: “The frontiers between confinement, judicial
punishment and institutions of discipline, where were already blurred in the
classical age, tended to disappear and to constitute a great carceral
continuum that diffused penitentiary techniques into the most innocent
disciplines” (297). The carceral system came to include a wide variety of
institutions that were ostensibly charitable or intended for the shelter and
protection of the poor and the young, eventually, reaching “all the disciplinary
mechanisms that function throughout society” (297-298).

Foucault summarizes: “We have seen that, in penal justice, the prison
transformed the punitive procedure into a penitentiary technique; the carceral
archipelago transported this technique from the penal institution to the entire
social body” (298). He then argues that there have been six key results:

1. Individuals “crimes,” “sins,” and “conduct” were no longer judged by

“separate criteria” and in relation to “separate criteria.” Irregular behavior
“was no longer the offence, the attack on the common interest, it was the
departure from the norm, the anomaly...the social enemy was transformed
into a deviant,” whose deviance was deemed infectious. “The carceral
network linked...the two long, multiple series of the punitive and the abnormal”
(pp. 298-300)

2. The carceral “allows the recruitment of major ‘delinquents” and

“organizes...’disciplinary careers.” Penality and discipline in the 19th century
produced both docility and delinquency. In panoptic society, there are no
“outlaws,” only those held and controlled by the law and its mechanisms.
“The carceral archipelago assures...the formation of delinquency on the basis
of subtle illegalities, the overlapping of the latter by the former and the
establishment of a specified criminality” (pp. 300-301).

3. The carceral system “succeeds in making the power to punish natural and
legitimate, in lowering at least the threshold of tolerance to penality.” It plays
“the legal register of justice and the extra-legal register of discipline...against
one another,” masking the true violence of penality. Society and the prison
now differ only in degree, and societal discipline (and the self policing it
entails) is accepted as proper, even when applied to the mildest
transgressions (pp. 301-303).

4. The “carceral network” has a great normative function, and “the judges of
normality are present everywhere” (p. 304)

5. The “real capture of the body and its perpetual observation” have created
the “knowable man,” “the object-effect of ... domination-observation.”
Foucault implies a relationship between the rise of the human sciences and
the penal process of power-knowledge (pp. 304-305).

6. The prison is deeply rooted in “mechanisms and strategies of power.”

However, the prison is neither indispensable or unalterable. Foucault names
two processes “capable of exercising considerable restraint” and
transformation on the prison: 1) processes which “(reduce) the utility...of a
delinquency accommodated as a specific illegality, as when the “levy on
sexual pleasure is carried out more efficiently” through the market than
through “the archaic hierarchy of prostitution; 2) The spread of and growth of
“mechanisms of normalization” beyond the prison, which, Foucault argues, will
soon make “the specificity of the prison” unnecessary. (pp. 305-306)

Foucault closes with another passage from La Phalange, in relation to which

he makes the book’s final points about the carceral city:

1. “that at the center of this a multiple network of diverse elements;”

2. “that the model of the carceral city is... a strategic distribution of elements of
different natures and levels”
3. “that it is the court that is external and subordinate to the prison” (and not
vice versa)
4. that it is “linked to a whole series of ‘carceral’ mechanisms”
5. that the above mechanisms are applied to transgression of production not
of a “’central’ law”
6. “That ultimately what presides over all these mechanisms is not the unitary
functioning of an apparatus or an institution, but the necessity of combat and
the rules of strategy.” (pp. 307-308)

Foucault asks that we “hear the distant roar of battle” and begin our own
“studies of the power of normalization and the formation of knowledge in
modern society” for which he has provided a background (308).

Outline prepared by Gretchen Haas and Brian Okstad

December 15, 2003