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Discipline and Punish

Michel Foucault


Docile Bodies

page 1 of 3

Docile Bodies

Docile Bodies

Docile Bodies

Docile Bodies


Foucault begins with the ideal of the soldier in the seventeenth century. He is easily recognizable in body and action. The classical age discovered the body as the target of power. The docile body is subjected, used, transformed and improved. Eighteenth century projects of docility represented a new scale of control. The economy of the body became important. The modality of control implies uninterrupted, constant coercion, which is exercised according to a codification that partitions time and space. These methods are the disciplines, ways of controlling the operations of the body which imposed a relation of docility-utility. The disciplines had always existed in monasteries and armies, but in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they became a general formula of domination. A policy of coercion that acts on the body was formed. The human body entered a machinery that explored and rearranged it. A political anatomy and a mechanics of power were slowly born. We cannot write the history of different disciplinary institutions, merely map a series of detailed examples.

"The art of distributions." Discipline proceeds from the distribution of individuals in space, and employs several techniques: one) Discipline sometimes requires enclosure in a protected place, e.g. a school, factory, or barracks. two) Disciplinary machinery works on the principle of partitioning space; it is always cellular. three) The rule of functional sites would gradually code a space that architecture left at the disposal of several sites. four) In discipline, the elements are interchangeable because each is identified by its place in a series. The key unit is the rank or place in a classification. Rank begins to define the distribution of individuals in educational space.

"Control of activity." One) the timetable is an old inheritance, suggested by monastic communities. The division of time in disciplinary authorities increased. two) The temporal elaboration of the act. Time penetrates the body with all the meticulous controls of power. three) The correlation of body and gesture. Disciplinary power imposes the best relation between gesture and the overall position of the body. In the correct use of the body, nothing must remain useless. four) Body-object articulation. Discipline defines each of the relationships between body and the object (e.g. a rifle) it manipulates. five) Exhaustive use. The traditional timetable forbids men to waste time. Discipline provides a positive economy, and poses the principle of ever-expanding use of time. The "natural body," which is manipulated by authority and classified, supercedes the mechanical body.

"The organization of geneses." As the eighteenth century progressed, different arrangements of time were evident; new technology developed in the classical period for regulating time, bodies and forces. The Disciplines were machinery for adding up and capitalizing time, in four different ways: one) by dividing duration into successive and parallel segments, each of which ends with a specific time. two) By organizing these segments according to an analytical plan. three) By finalizing these temporal segments with an examination to decide if a subject has reached the required level. four) By drawing up a series of series, and subdividing each series again. Dividing activities into series makes detailed control and intervention possible.

Disciplinary methods reveal a linear, evolutive time. But at the same time a social time of a serial cumulative type existed, giving an idea of evolution in terms of "genesis". The two great discoveries of the eighteenth century were the progress of society and the genesis of individuals linked to new technologies of power. At the center of the seriation of time was the procedure of exercise, a technology by which one imposes a repetitive or difficult task on the body. Exercise has a long history: it is found in military, religious, and universal practice as ritual or ceremony. Exercises became tasks of increasing complexity that marked the acquisition of knowledge and good behavior. Exercise was initially a way of organizing time towards salvation, but it became part of a political technology of the body.

"The Composition of forces." The military unit became a machine of many parts; there was a need to create smaller units out of a mass. This was similar to the idea of creating a productive force that was greater than its elements. Discipline became the art of composing forces to obtain an efficient machine. This demands explanation: one) the individual body becomes an element that is placed, moved and articulated. The soldier or body is inserted into a larger machine. two) The time of the individual unit is adjusted to the time of others. three) A carefully measured combination of forces requires a precise command of forces. The leader needs to signal in various ways to his charges.

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Imprisonment Critized

by brittfoerster, April 12, 2013

The ideal of a penal imprisonment is criticized by many reformers because
1. it is incapable of corresponding to the specificity of crimes
2. it has no effect on the public
3. It is useless, even harmful to society: it is costly. it maintains convicts in idleness, it multiplies their vices.
4. the execution of this penalty (imprisonment) is difficult to supervise
5. There is a risk of exposing prisoners to the uncontrolled power of the guards
6. The job (prison guard) is an exercise of tyranny (dictatorship)


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