Discipline and Punish

by: Michel Foucault

Important Quotations Explained

We are now far away from the country of tortures, dotted with wheels, gibbets, gallows, pillories; we are far, too, from that dream of the reformers, less than fifty years before.

This quotation reinforces the contrast drawn at the start of the book. The "country of tortures" is one in which punishment is publicly visible and horrific; indeed, part of its effectiveness lies in the fact that the devices of torture and execution are well-known to the public. The eighteenth century reformers' dream, never completely enacted in practice, is a dream of a theater of punishment in which the public watches and is influenced by a system of signs and representations that link different crimes to their punishments. Foucault's point is that the modern system of penality differs greatly from both models, but that there was no reason why it should have done. In considering both the lost country and the reformers' dream, Foucault explains why one model defeated the other two.