Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison Paperback – Apr 25 1995
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About the Author
Michel Foucault (1926--84) is widely considered to be one of the most influential academic voices of the twentieth century and has proven influential across disciplines.
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Top Customer Reviews
While there were many examples provided in Docile bodies and The means of correct training that dragged on a bit, they were necessary to get through in order to fully understand the later parts of the book.
It was fascinating to see Foucault's points on how society in general (and not just the prisons) has become more 'mechanical' (as shown through military and educational institutions, for example), and the brief discussion of the Panopticon was an interesting read, as well. He provides a lot to think about in terms of punishment and power, and it leads to engaging thoughts about how that has shaped society now.
Not only is the subject matter interesting, but it is written in a straightforward manner that makes it easy to understand. This is definitely a book worth reading - more so if philosophy, criminology, and history are of interest to the reader.
Within five minutes of my residence there are two large Texas state prisons. The offenders incarcerated in these facilities exist in a network of interlocking disciplinary mechanisms, mechanisms that Foucault unveils in this book. The criminal justice system, the prison environment, the educational/training opportunities available during incarceration, parolee supervision, and the limited employment options on release all coordinate to encapsulate the offender's life. The offender's agency is significantly impaired for the balance of his life regardless of his domiciliary.
I live in a master planned, suburban community subject to a detailed and lengthy list of deed restrictions. These deed restrictions dictate the colors that I can paint my house, the height to which my grass can grow, the type of trees that I can plant in the front yard as well as the insistence that I plant three trees in my front yard. My wife and I have had to paint the front door twice in the last four years to comply with homeowner association threats, and we have been chastised for offenses as "severe" as leaving a hose uncoiled for too long in the front yard.
Now I admit that there is a modicum of agency in my decision to live in this specific community; however, just like the offenders incarcerated nearby, I live in a network of interlocking disciplinary mechanisms. I contend that my agency is also significantly impaired. The difference between my life and the offender's life is one of degree, not kind.
This is the message Foucault communicates with both style and substance in this book.Read more ›
Although the book traverses a lot of historical ground, Foucault's discussion culminates in an analysis of Jeremy Bentham's prison concept. Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism philosophy, believed that individual rights are subordinate to the state. In fact, he went so far as to call them "nonsense on stilts." As long as the government protected its people and treated them decently, he did not believe that the polity could be accused of oppressing its citizen - be they convicts or otherwise. Thus, Bentham was the first philosopher to give the modern penal system its rational underpinnings. Today, we take it as a matter of course that those who do not conform to laws are trucked off to prison. But with this book, Foucault attempts to completely undermine our intuitive sense of what is right, what is coercive, what is rational, and ultimately what is true. Perhaps better than any other author out there, Foucault shows us the subtle madness of Western institutional logic.
Foucault focused on Bentham's prison model, or the Penopticon as Bentham called it - which literally means, that which sees all. The Penopticon prison, which was popular in the early nineteenth century, was designed to allow guards to see their prisons, but not allow prisoners to see guards. The building was circular, with prisoner's cells lining the outer diameter, and in the center of the circle was a large, central observational tower.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I read this for a course, I will reread it again and again because of its relevence.Published on Aug. 18 2004
I've read this book three times: First time was in undergraduate, second time was in law school, third time was last week. Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2003 by S. Pactor
It seems only to have occurred to a few of these reviewers that whatever Foucault intended as the poltical upshot of Discipline and Punish (and are we even 'allowed' to ask such a... Read morePublished on Aug. 20 2002
I am not a big fan of Foucault; however, I was fascinated by Crime and Punishment. One of the principal ideas which Foucault discusses in Discipline & Punish is that public... Read morePublished on Nov. 20 2001 by Alessandro Bruno
Foucault learns from history by looking backwards in time until a salient rupture appears, then goes forward detailing all of histories accounts. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2001
I found this book especially interesting from the perspective of anarchism. It provided a richer construction of power and coersion than you see in traditional anarchism. Read morePublished on Oct. 2 2001 by Rabble
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