Foucault II
Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the
April 4, 2012
Instructor: Sarah Whetstone
Readings and Key Concepts
• “Discipline and Punish”
– Changing modes of power: Sovereign Disciplinary
 Biopower
– Panopticon/Panoptic Power
– Disciplinary power works though:
• Economic production
• Political rights
• Scientific knowledge
– Subjected body/Subjectivity
• “The Means of Correct Training,” D & P
– Hierarchical observation
– Normalizing judgment
Sovereign  Disciplinary Society“History of Sexuality”
“One might say that the ancient right to take life or
let live was replaced by a power to foster life or
disallow it to the point of death… The setting up,
in the course of the classical age, of this great
bipolar technology– anatomic and biological,
individualizing and specifying, directed toward
the performances of the body… characterized a
power whose highest function was perhaps no
longer to kill, but to invest life through and
through” (193-94).
Discipline and Punish: Overview
• Punishment moved from public torture in medieval
times to prisons in contemporary society
– Sovereign  Disciplinary power
• Goals of containment, force, physical harm in
punishment still there, but now with a much greater
focus on surveillance, documentation, correction.
• Role of prison and social sciences in producing the
modern individual
“They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each
actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible…
Visibility is a trap” (209).
Effects of Panoptic Power…
• Panopticon reverses the principle of the dungeon.
• Crowd vs. “collection of separated individualities”
– Guardians can number, document, and supervise the individuals
– Inmates are sequestered and alone – can’t see each other, and
can’t band together
• Visible and Unverifiable
– Visible: The inmate constantly sees the panopticon, the
instrument of power
– Unverifiable: The inmate does not know when they are being
• “Disindividualizes” power: “Power has its principle not
so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution
of bodies… It does not matter who exercises power”
(210). [power is depersonalized, automated]
• Acts directly on the mind/body, without the use of
physical force
Ultimate effect of panoptic power…
“To induce in the inmate a state of conscious
and permanent visibility that assures the
automatic functioning of power… the
perfection of power should tend to render
its actual exercise unnecessary.. In short,
the inmates should be caught up in a
power situation of which they themselves
are the bearers” (210).
Panopticon today…
Panopticon & Discipline…
• Panopticon as a symbol of the modern era
of power: disciplinary society
• Pervasive in all realms: prison, school,
hospital, family, the state…
• Growth of a disciplinary society –
Discipline has not replaced other forms of
power, but has infiltrated them, linked
them together, extended them… (211)
Why did disciplinary society emerge?
• An increase in the size and mobility of
• Growth of economic production, which was
becoming more costly and demanded increased
• Need for more effective means of controlling
individuals -- Old forms were no longer enough.
Discipline operates through the
economy in 3 ways:
• Exerting the least amount of effort to control
populations through maximum invisibility: If
power is not seen, it will not be resisted.
• Bringing their effects to their “maximum
intensity” and extending the effects widely:
Discipline should be accomplished to the fullest
effect in as many places as possible.
• Increase “the docility and utility of all elements
of the system” (212)
Group Work: Marx & Foucault
Put Foucault into dialogue with
Marx– Is Foucault’s theory of power
compatible with Marxist logic? [pg.
2. What is the difference between
Foucault’s idea of discourse and the
Marxist concept of ideology? (202203).
3. How did the disciplinary power
Foucault writes about make possible
the growth of economic production
and the expansion of capitalism?
(212-213 in book, and “Means of
Correct Training”)
“Double Subjection” in Disciplinary Society
Subject (Subjected body)
As person under the rule of
Subject (Subjectivity)
As person with a narrative,
identity who testifies, brings their
own Actions, Thoughts, Desires,
Experiences to light
Relationship between Disciplinary Power and
Formal Political Rights (214-15)
Subjected body
The Modern Citizen
with Political “Rights”
“microphysics of power”
the swarming of disciplinary practices
creating subjected/“docile” bodies
scientific knowledge
the development of human sciences for
analyzing human behavior and biology
The Productive
The Human
(Research) Subject
The Subjected body
Liberal Democracy
The Citizen with
Political “Rights”
Specific techniques of disciplinary
power (how it works) :
• I heirachical observation
• II normalizing judgment
• Group Work:
– Define each technique of power using “Means
of Correct Training” reading
– List some specific methods/goals of each
– Identify some examples where this power is
exercised in social life. Pair one of Foucault’s
examples of each technique with one you
think of on your own.
Early-Modern Physical Punishment
sovereign power
focus on dramatic crime &
power is primarily
highly visible sovereign
encourages upwards gaze
invisible masses
acts directly on physical
body to punish sinful soul
deterrence/terror control
the unstable, volatile
potential rebellion
web of mutual surveillance
Focus on measuring and
preventing deviance
throughout the population
power is primarily
invisible watcher looks
down on subjects
Individualized (highly
visible) subjects
acts indirectly on the
body through a “soul”
constituted by discipline
mixture of sanction,
reform, & reward creates a
disciplined individual
efficient internalized
• Foucault concentrates in this section on the architecture
of surveillance. –
• The ideal type of observatory was the military camp • [a] its potential for designing from scratch, and its already
subject population meant it could achieve a purity of power
without any relics of the sovereign period,
• [b] it had to be as effective as possible because the men
were armed. The layers of authority were interspersed
through the camp, with the entrances of officers' tents
opposite those they supervised: a "spatial 'nesting' of
hierarchized surveillance. The camp model became the
principle behind working-class housing estates, hospitals,
prisons, asylums, and schools.
At the heart of all disciplinary systems functions a small penal mechanism.
These micro-penalties fill up the gaps left by the "relative indifference of the
great systems of punishment" with an infinite web of regulation:
- Now what is punished is failing to carry out the desired tasks to an exact
standard - non-observance rather than clear deviance. Punishment, therefore,
tends towards training rather than vengeance.
- Punishment is only one end of the integrated gratification-punishment system.
"..instead of the simple division of the prohibition, as practised in penal justice,
we have a distribution between a positive pole and a negative pole; all behaviour
falls in th field between good and bad marks, good and bad points."
- This distribution can be arithmetically mapped out, with plus points cancelling
out minus ones etc. The apparatus can therefore heirarchically lay out the
- Distribution according to rank is in itself a reward or punishment.
- At the furthest extreme, a shameful group representing the excluded, those
beyond the frontier of the abnormal, can be created as a warning to those in the
higher classes.
Disciplinary POWER? II
• Foucault acknowledges the influence of Rusche and
Kirchheimer's Punishment and Social Structures, which
lays out a materialist analysis of punishment - relating
different regimes of control to different modes of production.
• Slave society -- Punishment creates extra workforce beyond
those provided by war or the slave trade
• Feudalism -- Money and production still at early state of
development: body is the most accessible property to
• Mercantilism -- Forced labor, prison factory and the
penitentiary provide developing capital with cheap labor
• Industrialism -- Requires free labour market - forced labour
replaced by corrective detention
1. It is diffuse, made up of different techniques, different pieces of discourse.
"In spite of the coherence of its results, it is generally no more than a
multiform instrumentation."
2. Its main field of operation is at the micro-level – through the "micro-physics
of power" .
3. Institutions can exercise it, but it is not a possession but a technique, not a
conquest but a perpetual and fluid set of battles.
4. It is exercised through us, not on us, forming a web right through society,
rather than just negotation along some frontier of control.
5. Power is inconsistent and imperfect, which leaves space for alternative
consciousness to develop. It is "not univocal" but made up of "innumerable
points of confrontation, focuses of instability, each of which has its won risks
of conflict, of struggles, and of an at least temporary inversion of the power
6. Because of its fragmentary nature it cannot be destroyed or taken over in one