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Foucault and Control

Foucault knew a thing or two about control. So do the rest of us, he would argue, although most of us are trying to ignore the reality of the ways in which we are being controlled and the consequences of such a level of control. Throughout the body of his writings, he is intensely concerned with how the institutions of society create citizens who will work hard both to create profit for others while working just as hard to conform and fit in. He is particularly concerned about the question of control through the state structures of punishment in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

Foucault argues in this work that despite the fact that we may like to think of ourselves as more modern and more civilized than citizens (and governments) of past centuries who tortured those who had been judged deviant that we are in fact very little different from societies that have gone before. And if we have replaced thumb screws and the rack and public floggings by prisons in which much of the degradation of the prisoner's body (and so the prisoner's psyche) is hidden away, then we are still adhering to a philosophy in which justice is deemed to be a public spectacle. Foucault summarizes the beginnings of our current systems of punishment that exist for all of those who step outside acceptable forms of behavior - or thought:

I have attempted to analyze how, at the initial stages of industrialized societies, a particularly punitive apparatus was set up together with a system for separating the normal and the abnormal à. This investigation enables us to rediscover one of the conditions of the emergence of the human sciences: the great nineteenth-century effort in discipline and normalization (p. 61).

Foucault is fascinated by the concept of the Panopticon, a theoretical form of surveillance used to ensure that prisoners could at all times be watched without the watchers themselves being seen. Although he is particularly interested ...

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Foucault and Control. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:18, April 13, 2024, from