Michel Foucault


Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Norms and Normalization: Michel Foucault’s

In Discipline and Punish, 1974, Foucault pointed out there are three types of punishment from classical age to modern age. In the classical age, there are many countries of feudalism, like France, China, Korea, etc., that countries adopt the constitutional monarchy system. The King of those countries used to show the view of punishing prisoner to the citizen, which benefits the King to control his citizen through the visible pain of the body. In the late 18th century, the humanist carry out the punishment of imprisonment to substitute for the torture and cruel treatment of body and establish the mandated standards as law. In the Modern age, the ruling party redefined the manifestation of disciplinary power and prison supervision scientifically, universally, exquisitely and abstractly.

The role of the surveillance in the culture of cities is to assist the disciplinary institutions to control over the others through the power discipline. We can realise how the government party control over the citizen through the gaze and surveillance through the panopticon prison. The panopticon is an efficient prison building, which is designed by Bentham. In this prison, every prisoner is imprisoned in a small room and is constantly being watched by guards in the central tower. In addition to the watch tower, that prison is transparent and bright so that the monitor is easily watch over the prisoner. Therefore, the prisoners only know there are be watched but they don’t know what time they are be watched, so the prisoner will control their every action themselves at any moment. In this way, each of the prisoners will be self-disciplined, because they all feel that they are being watched anytime and anywhere. This external gaze gradually transforms into an individual’s inner daily surveillance during this high-efficiency discipline.

The Universal Functional Operating Mode

It is a universal functional mode of operation, a way of determining power relations from the perspective of people’s daily lives.

This is a universal functional mode of operation, a way of determining power relations from the people’s daily lives. The panopticon prison – surveillance reduce the number of people gaining power and increase the number of people who are be controlled. The surveillance enables the political party in power to intervene at any time before a fault, mistake, or crime occurs. The power of surveillance is not intervening but automatically applied, which forms a knock-on effect.

In 2014, British artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin created an artwork Spirit is a bone which idea is inspired by a facial recognition system of public security surveillance software in Moscow. This software is using on the public area such as subway station, train station, stadium and concert hall, etc., which can capture people’s face from four different angle so that build up a complete three dimensional personal facial image on computer. Therefore, in Broomberg and Chanarin’s work, the subject characters always looking forward and show stony-faced because they are monitored. This work is showing the view of the monitor to us and how the monitor gazing us. This work is refer to the German photographer August Sander’s Pastry Cook, 1928 in the showing form. Sander has take over 300 pieces portrait which is including baker, philosopher and the revolutionist who stand in the centre of the photograph and look at us bravely through the camera. Broomberg said that he was influenced by the contemporary artist Helmar Lerski’s work who is insist of no one can read anyone’s mind from their face.


This work is showing to us that we are surveillance by the gazing of the camera of the government, which also expressing the issue of the power relationship between the governing party and the citizen. On one side, this software are protecting us from the crime through the deterrence, which restrain someone from committing or preparing to commit a crime in the public place, which assure that the security of public place. It also assures that the police will know the feature of the criminal even if somebody commit a crime. On the other side, this work is showing to us the discipline power is ubiquitously infiltrated into the entire social life even the ordinary people are also placed under the supervision of power and doing self-discipline. The citizen’s behaviour, identity and position are also monitored and reported to the government. The government party are judging and making potential criminals of all the citizen. There are the other question were be mentioned that If we want to be free should we scarifies our a part of freedom?

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Comparing Michelle Alexander New Jim Crow and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish both outline the power structure surrounding crime and punishment in society over the course of history. Both Alexander and Foucault admit to a dispersion of power across all social institutions and exchanges. In other words, to both Foucault and (to a lesser extent) Alexander, power lacks a concentrated focal point and is instead pervasive in society. While Alexander does allude to power as a distributed force in society, it is a force that is contingent on a driving ideology: racial prejudice. In Foucault’s case, power does not take the form of a hierarchical structure of a controlling group and a victimized group. To Foucault, power seems to exist more for its’ own sake: an ingrained function of humanity wherein everyone partakes the opportunity to assign “delinquency” to another. While Foucault and Alexander differ on this point, they share an interpretation of how power is implemented on the everyday level, including the transformation of bodies into instruments of efficiency through punishment and surveillance.

Foucault writes about society’s power structure as a sort of conspiracy towards efficiency. This is what is meant by the dispersion of power: there is no concentrated power (a king, for instance) behind the implementation of punishment. Messy displays of power coming from a single source were not useful in manipulating people on a large scale: they were useful for sending a message on a crime-by-crime basis. A corporal punishment unique to a crime, such as flogging for theft, discourages people from committing those individual crimes but does not pull one into a system of discipline that stigmatizes crime as a whole. Incarceration became simply the appropriate result of an efficient societal machine, crime has been homogenized and punishment is streamlined. Prescribing one punishment (prison) for essentially all crime consequently sends the message to society that all crimes are equal. Popular illegality as a whole entity is effectively discouraged. The cause for punishment in Foucault’s philosophy moves away from the need to demonstrate an excessive show of power, and towards an “economy” of power that yields a successfully functioning society. As he writes on page 19, “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.” In other words, measures to make a system operate like a machine.

Alexander’s view of the system however (and power within it) rests on racism as an ideological drive for punishment. Her statistics are so overwhelming that racism as a cause for imbalanced incarceration becomes almost undeniable. Just to cite one example, Alexander’s research yields that “In 2000, in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison.” (98) Alexander’s presentation of cold facts on the implementation of punishment based solely on racial bias demonstrates undeniable presence of a concentrated source of power: whiteness. Her statistics not only emphasize racial bias in arrests and incarceration, but in institutions across society. Alexander’s portrait of the system shows it to be ideologically flawed and suggests a glimmer of hope that, because we can so clearly identify the problem that generates power imbalance, we can work towards its recalibration. However, this notion is quickly discounted when Alexander notes that on paper our system is colorblind. Unconscious bias is an inherently human flaw that unfortunately escapes solution. Unconscious racism is too intangible to solve. This, in a way, mirrors Foucault’s ideas on power as invisible but omnipresent and inescapable.

Both Alexander and Foucault discuss the evolution of punishment from emphasizing the physical body to instead the soul. Alexander in particular introduces this by pointing out that our society labels someone a criminal in essentially permanent terms. This label is not just a blemish on their permanent record, but on their permanent character. The power dynamics of our society dictate that despite a criminal going to prison and essentially compensating for their crime, their soul will continue to be in question indefinitely. Alexander writes on page 141, “Criminals, it turns out, are the one social group in America we have permission to hate.” Society as a whole partakes in the power play of “othering” criminals. Foucault agrees:

If it [the soul] is brought before the court, with such pomp and circumstance, such concern to understand and such ‘scientific’ application, it is because it too, as well as the crime itself, is to be judged and to share in the punishment. (18)

In this respect, Alexander and Foucault align closely. Both acknowledge that criminal’s souls are held in judgment; the crucial difference is that Alexander groups criminals as the victimized faction. Power to Alexander is not dispersed: there are clear holders and victims of power in her book. Alexander frames society’s condemnation of criminal souls as yet another way in which power is concentrated to one side and withheld from the other. Alexander’s system as it is argued in The New Jim Crow is more a dichotomy than a distribution of power. Most importantly, to Alexander this power discrepancy (and consequently those who wind up incarcerated) is the direct result of racial prejudice.

To Foucault, however, transfer of punishment onto the soul rather than merely the body functions to empower all members of society because we all participate in the judgment and therefore the punishment. The citizen is presumed to have accepted once and for all, with the laws of society, the very law by which he may be punished. Thus the criminal appears as a juridically paradoxical being. He has broken the pact, he is the enemy of society as a whole, but he participates in the punishment that is practice upon him. (90)

Foucault demonstrates that power becomes a ubiquitous manifestation that does not merely exist within the “law” or reign down from the judicial system: power is in the hands of every member of society, and present across all institutions including schools, hospitals, etc. The criminal himself signs a social contract acknowledging what is illegal (or simply what behavior society will not approve of) and the consequences associated with violation. He (or she) therefore holds the same potential opportunity to exert power that any other citizen does.

Foucault and Alexander do share interpretations of how bodies are manipulated within the system in order to create “efficiency.” Both Foucault and Alexander point to panopticism and the creation of “docile bodies.” The methodology of surveillance is discussed at length in Alexander: one can be searched, judged, assessed, constantly. Alexander and Foucault are stating that the system we live in asserts constant surveillance, but Foucault claims the techniques are employed to create useful individuals. Alexander would not only claim that useful individuals are not created (Foucault does seem to agree that this intention does not necessarily materialize), but that the system is not even trying in any genuine capacity to create useful individuals. Discipline and Punish assigns a degree of faith or optimism to the system that The New Jim Crow does not. To Alexander the system’s goal behind panopticism is simply to oppress on racial grounds. Alexander discusses the Drug War literally as a smokescreen to incarcerate minorities, not as an attempt to make use of people in any way. Alexander and Foucault essentially describe similar means to different ends.

In Alexander’s case it is difficult to determine whether or not we as a reader should interpret the system as efficient. Alexander exposes the implementation of punishment to be wildly chaotic in one sense, stating of the Drug War that:

No one needs to be informed of their rights during a stop or search, and police may use minor traffic stops as well as the myth of “consent” to stop and search anyone they choose for imaginary drug crimes.” (69)

This portrait of punishment comes across as a free for all in which police officers arrest on any whim. Yet, particularly by Foucault’s standards, Alexander’s representation of the system is profoundly efficient. The goal is to arrest and incarcerate and Alexander reveals a system that skillfully manipulates financial and economic incentives to create the desired result. Determining efficiency is dependent on the chosen definition of “efficient.”

Discipline and Punish and The New Jim Crow agree that prison creates delinquency and is therefore problematic. Prison is problematic because it perpetuates a circular regurgitation of crime and delinquency. The ex-convict experiences so much difficulty assimilating back into society that they can no longer become anything but a criminal. Foucault’s take on prison is paradoxical: the system of incarceration could be beneficial were it able to create ex-convicts who discipline themselves after incarceration. This however, doesn’t actually occur, because of the power dynamics inherent to human nature. Foucault acknowledges that our desire to inflict power on one another through “othering” is exactly what causes the failure of the prison system. In this way the criminal soul remains imprisoned after the physical body is freed. Prison’s intention (to create useful people) is good, but human nature corrupts it. Prison might be successful were we all not already prisoners to the larger system of power dynamics. Foucault writes:

The conditions to which the free inmates are subjected necessarily condemn them to recidivism: they are under surveillance of the police; they are assigned to a particular residence, or forbidden others…(267)

One of the greatest differences between Alexander and Foucault are simply their canons of discussion for the prison. Foucault is philosophizing in the abstract realm and Alexander is entirely literal. Foucault situates the prison in metaphorical terms regarding human existentialism, and in doing so exposes prison to be more a synecdoche for the society as a whole. This is what he means in saying that we are no longer a culture of spectacle but a culture of surveillance. Society desires prisons to fail because we desire to survey. Foucault also suggests however, that the purpose of surveillance if not to literally create better people, is to dissuade criminals from crime because they fear they are always being watched. This is precisely the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure that Alexander refers to; she just addresses it in more concrete terms.

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A Review of Michel Foucault’s Two Books

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Foucault’s Passage on the “History of Sexuality” and “Discipline and Punish”

Foucault writes in the introduction to the history of sexuality his desire for a general working hypothesis that would be different from the working hypothesis in the nineteenth century. He mentions that the society was a bourgeois, capitalist, and industrial society that did not confront sex with a fundamental refusal of recognition. Foucault mentions the kind of discourse put into operation by the society in the nineteenth century. The society, according to Foucault, compelled a uniform truth of sex thus creating a great suspicion on the matter. The passage also mentions the evil contents upon which the weakness of human beings is based. This essay is an explanation of Foucault’s passage about the discourse and the exercise of disciplinary power as well as the role that the discourses concerning sex play in creating a responsible human population.

Firstly, the passage mentions the fact that emphasis should be put in formulating a general working hypothesis and not just on a particular working hypothesis that portrays the society in a given way. Foucault views the general working hypothesis as a way of analyzing the existing discourse about sex from a just some perspective that tends to generalize an explanation of the social aspects of life such as sex. In the text about the introduction in the history of sexuality, Foucault states that it would be a blunder to outlook the question of proliferation of discourses simply as a qualitative phenomenon during the nineteenth century. In the article about punishment and discipline, Foucault gives an example of a hypothesis that seems not to be working in enhancing discipline. The hypothesis of punishment through loss of wealth and rights is mentioned by Foucault not to be working out (Foucault 12). The article relates to the other article about the history of sexuality since it is the sex discourses in the society that result in the crimes committed. Punishment does not; therefore solve the sex discourses in the society.

From the passage, Foucault argues that the working hypothesis used to approach the rise in discourses concerning sex seem to identify the society as a place where matters to do with sex were not given any attention. Talking about sex might have seemed to be more important than other forms of imperatives imposed on it during the nineteenth century. The passage tends to explain the transformation of sex into a series of discourse during the nineteenth century. The discourse might have resulted from a view about sex that is far from reality. The reproductive economy at the time sex discourses were rampant, seemed to be very strict on unproductive behaviors that were in fact banned, since they were just casual pleasures that do not contribute to the reproductive economy (Foucault 36).

It is at that time in history that legal actions against minor sexual offences were increased. The general working hypothesis that Foucault mentions in the passage implies that the hypothesis used during the nineteenth century were never working, and thus there was the proliferation of sex discourse in the society. There were norms that were used to regulate sexual activities right from childhood to adulthood for every individual during the century. Apparently, sexual irregularities were linked to mental illness, and that led to the organization of medical treatment to deal with those who were accused of being sexually immoral. Such notions of sex led to sex discourses since there was no generalization in the hypothesis used. Besides, the hypotheses were never working out as mentioned in the passage.

The society that emerged in the nineteenth century was a society that was experiencing a lot of changes due to the industrial revolution that had just begun. In the passage, Foucault mentions the society to be bourgeois, capitalist, and even industrial. Apparently, the society gave other issues a priority so as to catch up with the revolution that was going on. The society aimed at increasing production through the use of machinery and modern technology during the time. Foucault argues that discourses are products of a machinery to exert disciplinary control over a population, a fact that is evident in the onset of the nineteenth century. The society might have tried to exert discipline on the people by the use of machinery since it was a time marked by the invention of new machinery and technology. The result was sex discourses due to lack of fundamental refusal of recognition in confronting sex (Foucault 69).

Foucault’s opinion on uniform truth asserts that knowledge is power and can be used to solve a good number of problems in the society. The emergence of the nineteenth century led to more focus on industrial development while creating the knowledge about sexuality issues was ignored. Indeed, knowledge is power when well utilized. The society did not confront sex with a fundamental refusal of recognition but put into operation the entire machinery for reproducing true discourses concerning it.

Foucault notes in the passage about sex becoming an object of great suspicion right from the emergence of the nineteenth century. For instance, in the ancient times, consanguine marriages were prohibited, and adultery was also condemned. In the emergence of the nineteenth century, the sexuality of children has been subordinated, and their solitary habits significantly interfered with, leading to the sexual discourses in the society. The suspicion and lack of knowledge among the children have been a major cause of discourse on the matter of sexuality (Foucault 41). The suspicion children have for having not been exposed to their sexuality leads to children disagreeing with some of the principles that regulate the sexuality of individuals. Similarly, Foucault, in the article “discipline and punish,” uses the example of believing in the past events to determine our activities. He describes the past events to be based on primitivism hence they ought not to determine our discipline, as in the case of sexual discourses where individuals may look at the past and be interested in them (Foucault 30).

Foucault believes that there is no truth about sex or such a thing as true discourse. He believes in social control when dealing with the issue of sexuality. In his text about punishment and discipline, he notes that the emergence of the nineteenth century was characterized by the abolishment of punishment for those who were never disciplined (Foucault 9). The abolishment of punishment could have meant that the hypothesis that used to regulate people against crimes was being misunderstood. Some understood punishment as an overreaction to the issue that was then a discourse. Foucault apparently sees no truth in the whole issue of crimes and punishment in his book about the same. He compares the perception of the people before the nineteenth century and during the nineteenth century. The perceptions on the truth about sex forms the relationship between the two articles about sex, discipline and punishment. Critically thinking, he judges from a perspective that there might be a different notion about sexuality in the future, thus no truth in the matter.

Foucault mentions in the passage from the introduction to the history of sexuality that our conduct and existence are pervaded by sex due to the suspicion individuals have on their sexuality (Foucault 69).Again, the statement suggests that we ought to put forward a working hypothesis in order to overcome the sex discourses in the society. For example, in his book about discipline and punishment, Foucault states that it would be better if we perhaps abandon the whole tradition that allows us to imagine that knowledge can only develop outside its injunctions, its demands, and interests. We are also advised to admit that power is one of the conditions of knowledge, without which the sex discourses cannot be solved. We are urged to abandon our thoughts that power makes mad but rather accept that power and knowledge directly imply one another. Our understanding of the passage should enable us analyze the power-knowledge relations between Foucault’s article “the history of sexuality” and “discipline and punish” on the basis of our sexuality.

The many discourses concerning sex play an important role in creating a disciplined population that has greater control over its activities. The passage has a meaning that our points of weakness as where we tend to carry out evil activities. We get to understand from the passage that every individual has his or her point of weakness. Moreover, the passage creates awareness on the issue of discipline and self-control as the factors that can lead to a solution to the discourses concerning sex.

The discourses concerning sex as in the texts written by Foucault play a role in creating an understanding of the body and material things. In his text about discipline and punishment, he describes the harsh and primitive prison life hence readers get to learn the importance of discipline. It is the discourses concerning sex that lead to the crimes that are often worth imprisonment. Foucault gives readers an understanding of how to respond to particular needs with the ongoing innovations in mind (Foucault 30).

In conclusion, Foucault’s passage creates an understanding of sex discourse and disciplinary power in controlling the issue. The passage enlightens us on creating approaches that can solve our personal needs as well as the change that is ongoing due to improved technology.

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A Comparison Between Michel Foucault and Michael Kimmel Masculinity Theory

October 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Manhood is something that the world struggles with. Being defined and seen from different points of view. Is it masculinity that is the problem or is it those trying to define it? Foucault and Kimmel may have two different points of views and may be from different time periods, but the similarities of the two are rather dire and noticeable.

Through Society’s Eyes

Foucault’s article describes the views and perspectives of masculinity through society’s eyes. Foucault said, “ They were taught the art of power relations.” They referring to men. This meaning they were taught the difference between domination and relationality. Domination is how you exert your power over someone else, whereas relationality is the connection between two people and how they view each other. These two fall hand in hand because they both deal with the communications of more than one person. Foucault clearly defines masculinity in his article.

Kimmel also describes the point of view on masculinity through the eyes of those around men. Michael said, “ We think of manhood as a thing, a quality that one either has or doesn’t have.” Meaning one has strength, courage, and sexual potency. Showing a high degree of skill and flair. Kimmels article summarizes the traits and qualities of the idealistic man.

Kimmel and Foucault’s article take the classical social theory and the social enemy to the test. Kimmel having said, “ It is the notion of manhood- rooted in the sphere of production, the public arena, the masculinity grounded not in land ownership or in the artisanal republican virtue but in the successful participation in the market place…. Defining notion of American Manhood.” This meaning that a man is to not be afraid. That he is to not be afraid to fight. Foucault said, “ The social enemy was transformed into a deviant, who brought with him the multiple danger of disorder crime and madness.” This meaning that the one given as the enemy, strayed away from acceptable standards. That the enemy, being the man is now seen as someone not afraid. Both articles took two different subjects, in different words, making them seamlessly the same.


Masculinity is described with aggression, competition, strength, etc. Although there are many different ways to describe masculinity, and that all masculinities aren’t created equally as said by Kimmel, he finds new ways and different points of view of the word. After large amounts of research, One definition stood out. “Hegemonic” Masculinity, the image of masculinity of those men hold power, which has become the standard psychological evaluations, sociological research, and self-help and advice literature for teaching young men to become “real men. (Connell, 1987).” Kimmel found a definition of Masculinity, although all definitions are not the same, they are all tied into one.

Foucault’s article take delinquency and how it should be handled in different views. He said, “… Panoptic society of which incarnation is the omnipresent armature, the delinquent is not outside the law; he is from the outset, in the law, at the very heart of the law, or at least in the midst of those mechanisms that transfer the individual imperceptibly from the discipline to the law, from deviation to transfer offense. Although it is true that prison punished delinquency, delinquency is for the most part produced in and by the incarceration which, ultimately, prison perpetuates in its turn.” Meaning that the one doing the wrong not only gets punished, but is within the law. Which means that no one person is above the law. Although, masculinity is not said, it plays a huge role. Being able to give an individual consequences, no matter the situation and serving right by the law, is a big part. Prison being an untaught consequence, the one doing the wrong is nothing more than an “institutional product.”

History of Masculinity

Kimmel and Foucault take the history and the present of masculinity into consideration. Foucault said,

“With the new economy of power, the carceral system, which is its basie instrument, permitted the emergence of the new form of “law”: a mixture of legality and nature, prescription and constitution, the norm. This had a whole series of effects: the internal dislocation of the judicial power or at least its functioning; an increasing difficulty in judging, as if one were ashamed to pass sentence; a furious desire on the part of the judges to judges, assess, diagnose, recognize the normal and abnormal and claim the honour of curing or rehabilitating. In view of this, it is useless the believe in the good or bad consciences of judges, or even of their unconscious.”

Meaning that although the the new economies power was relevant, it was just a base to what was going on behind the scenes, with what we could not see in other words. There was an increase in difficulty in the verdicts given. Even though it being difficult, Kimmel found a way to change the views and points of the cultural differences.

Kimmel said,

“To argue that cultural definitions of gender identity are historically specific goes only so far; we have to specify exactly what those models were. In my historical inquiry into the development of these models of manhood I chart the fate of two models of manhood at the turn of the 19th century…” Kimmel then went on to say, “.. Two models of manhood prevailed. The Genteel Patriarch derived his identity from landownership. Supervising his estate, he was refined elegant, and given to casual sensuousness.” He continued later on with, “By contrast, the Heroic Artisan embodied the physical strength and republican virtue that Jefferson observed in the yeoman farmer, independent urban craftsman, or shopkeeper.”

Kimmel and Foucault took to different points of view on the same subject and gave them a purpose. Both examples struggling to find the meaning or purpose of what is being said, found a common ground. Although being different, both struggled to find a common interest. Masculinity is seen differently, not only by society, but by time period. But, they have their similarities. Strength, anxiousness, driven, etc. No matter the time period, masculinity is a struggle, in which both articles have proven that.

Kimmel and Foucault, having two different mindsets, have taught that masculinity is not a trait and it is not genetic.It is self-taught and it is complicated. Although having nothing in common with each other, they have both proven that two different points of views can be the same. If broken down correctly and with the right words, two differences are brought together as one.

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