Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) Michel Foucault

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Foucault has gotten a bad rap lately as somehow he has come to symbolize obscure, dense, abstractions of high French theory. Derrida lectures are now being printed in English including one in book form called “On Capital Punishment.” Extremely difficult to make sense of. Judith Butler review in London Review of Books did not help! This is not the case with Foucault. This is the work of an historian who has great power to describe at a very microscopic level the actions of the prison warden over time, the prisoner, and the sovereign (King and the people). He certainly does coin a unique vocabulary for this investigation– “anatomy of power,” “bio-politics.” These are not throw away terms but they are brought to great meaning through his empirical descriptions. From micro to big macro of intellectual history, philosophy, religion and social theory follow each other in bringing to light the “birth of the prison.”

 

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