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Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison
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Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  13,086 ratings  ·  435 reviews
In this brilliant work, the most influential philosopher since Sartre suggests that such vaunted reforms as the abolition of torture and the emergence of the modern penitentiary have merely shifted the focus of punishment from the prisoner's body to his soul.
ebook, 352 pages
Published April 18th 2012 by Vintage (first published 1975)
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AC
NEW REVIEW [it took more than a few days to get back to this -- I hope someone reads it... lol]

I will add only a few additional comments to what I’ve already written (below and in the comments sections). It will be enough and more than enough.

I came at this book with decades of prejudice built-up – and it showed in my (essentially failed) reading of Madness and Civilization. I knew that Foucault was a fake and a charlatan before I ever cracked a page. So to speak…

So one can imagine my surprise a
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Trevor
This book begins with a bang – in fact, a series of bangs. That is the point, you see. We need to be shocked about what is, after all, our relatively recent past. We too easily forget that there was a time when ‘people like us’ actually span back in history for nearly as far as the mind could imagine. Now, we struggle to believe that people who lived 20 or 30 years ago where quite like us – even when we ourselves were those people. Today we cast off selves and disown past selves like our endless ...more
Cat
I've read this book three times: First time was in undergraduate, second time was in law school, third time was last week. I can honestly say that my understanding of this work has grown with each reading, but that growth in comprehension has come more from my reading of other books either discussing or related to Discipline and Punish.
Specifically, I would recommend Jurgen Habermas's critique of Foucault, although I now forget which book of his contains his critique. I would also recommend Goff
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Conrad
In many ways a response to the French government's penal codes of the 60s and 70s but also a continuation of Foucault's work in Madness and Civilization, the influence of D&P can be seen everywhere from Spielberg's Minority Report to Enemy of the State to Ted Conover's Newjack and most if not all critiques of surveillant governments. It's also a horrifying read, starting out as it does with an account of the ritualistic execution of a regicide, which Foucault compares favorably to the prison ...more
David Withun
I read this book while sitting in a prison at night, surrounded by sleeping prisoners locked in their cells, during the last few nights of the year I spent as a correctional officer in a Georgia prison. Each point made by Foucault in this book stood out in high relief all round me. So did the points he missed.

While Foucault's analysis here is, as always, insightful and fascinating, I think his own obsession with the idea of power led him to miss some points which he often seems to be very close
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Jessica
Nov 10, 2007 Jessica marked it as owned-for-years-but-still-not-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: intellectuals who have done something bad
I started it. I didn't finish. And unless I one day find myself in a situation with extremely limited mobility and options, with a great deal of time (read: years) on my hands, it's conceivable that I never will.

I'd like to have read this book, since I'm very interested in the topics it addresses, but I don't know that I have the mind, stomach, or patience for Foucault. So while I'd like to have read it, I don't know that I'd like as much to read it, if you get what I'm saying. Well, maybe somed
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Lex
This book rearranged my brain. I have never read something that met my intuition half way, and then expanded my vision beyond all critical capacities I knew before. I will never conceive of power, structures, knowledge, statistics, or my cock the same way again. His anti-humanitarian, empirical, and nonuniversal critiques that follow the money and the violence are the perfect medicine for people who have been reading saggy assed media studies and cultural studies for too long. Saved my life.
Hadrian
Another one of those Big Idea Books that I've only just now got around to reading.

Although I must express some doubts about Foucault's history of the prison system and its supposedly linear process from revenge to rehabilitation (in many parts of the United States, we're still big on violent punishment and mandatory minimum sentencing), the idea of certain societal institutions as means to force compliance and uniformity is a powerful idea.
Miquixote
This reads like a dystopian novel, albeit with foucault's famously (infamously?) difficult language.

First I have to admit that I was probably provoked to read this because Steven Pinker said it was 'unconvincing' in his particularly unconvincing book 'The Better Angels of our Nature'. I was also a bit perplexed how such an apparently unconvincing book (this one) could get over 33, 000 citations on google academic. Also pretty great reviews by the goodreads non-scholars. So you know that strange
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Aaron
i first trudged through this book when i was in high school. being 17, i realized that i wasn't really understanding what he was saying, but for the first time, felt like i was exposed to an analysis that transcended dominant thought in a way that i didnt know was possible. for the next 3 years i read a lot of foucault..his understanding of the co-productive nature of knowledge and power gave me tools to deconstruct our funny world and truths. not to be too corny, but this shit changed my life. ...more
Szplug
This was my first exposure to Michel Foucault. I'm not sure whether it is the fault of the translator or not, but I found Foucault's prose to be rather thick and elliptical at times, to the degree that it may have contributed to the fleeting impression this work left on me. It was interesting, and presented a view on the evolution of criminal punishment that I hadn't considered in such a light before - I find, however, that much of it has already slipped away from memory.

The principal thrust of
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Jonathan-David Jackson
Apr 18, 2012 Jonathan-David Jackson rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonathan-David by: Diane
This book was the hardest book I've ever read. Generally I'll go through a 300 page book in two days - this one took me about a month. Perhaps its the style of the author, or something to do with the translation from French, but it was very difficult for me to finish it. Many times I found myself reaching the end of a page and realizing that I hadn't been able to concentrate on it so my mind had wandered and I hadn't actually taken anything in, so I'd have to start the page over, and then it wou ...more
Justin Mitchell
Every time I read Foucault, I leave asking myself "What am I supposed to do with this?"

My main issue is that I feel everything Foucault comes up with is ridiculously obvious. Of course power is the basis for all our social interactions. It's not a mind-blowing point. Of course public executions are demonstrations of power over crime. Of course the disciplinary systems of the prison, the rehabilitation concept, etc., are all rooted in power. It doesn't challenge anything to say that. If I write a
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Jake
To be honest, this was the hardest book I've ever gotten through. This, however, isn't saying much as I don't tend to read books on social theory. Foucault is, to my taste, an overly-wordy, arrogant, intellectual. He seems to love to use words that he makes up mid-text with little or no explanation other than the context (i.e. panopticism). Though, I have to hand it to the guy, his theories, rarely backed by anything but his own pompous presuppositions, carry fundamental truths. After reading th ...more
Matt
Admittedly, my expectations were quite high for this book. I've heard and read some whole-hearted praise for Discipline and Punish which compelled me to read it. I had gone through some of it in college and thought I'd tackle it again.

And, at the risk of being labeled obtuse, I'm not sure I get it.

Part I focuses on an ideological history of torture. The conclusions regarding the purpose and effect of torture by the sovereign are interspersed with anecdotal tales heightening the horror of such pu
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Pedro Caldas
Li “Vigar e Punir” pela segunda vez (para preparar uma disciplina em teoria da história), e, por isto, não fui surpreendido pela qualidade excepcional do livro. Mas isto não diminuiu, em nada, minha admiração pela obra.

“Vigiar e Punir” é, na minha opinião, um marco nas ciências humanas. Em primeiro lugar, porque, nele, Michel Foucault narra o nascimento da “alma moderna”. Neste sentido, que me perdoem marxistas e weberianos ortodoxos e fanáticos, atinge a altura de vários capítulos de “O Capita
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Erik Graff
Jun 15, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Erik Badger
Shelves: history
This book was much less personally problematic than his first book about sexuality because prisons are, barring one night as a teen, beyond my experience. It did shake up some of the beliefs I'd obtained in elementary school about Patricia Mott and the prison reforms of the nineteenth century--reforms which were naturally part of the ever-progressive movement of the world led by the United States of America according to the secular religion we were inculcated with back then.

It is, however, a fin
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Siria
When I finished reading this book, I broke out a tub of Ben and Jerry's Half Baked—chocolate and vanilla frozen yoghurt with brownie and cookie dough chunks seemed the only suitable reward after 300+ pages of Foucault's prose. Whether or not its his writing style or an effect of the translation, Discipline and Punish is a dense and at times frustratingly opaque book. That, coupled with Foucault's fondness for using minuscule, ahistorical details to justify large-scale abstractions, made this a v ...more
Ahmad
Apr 21, 2012 Ahmad marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
هذا الكتاب يعد نقلة نوعية في الفكر الغربي في مفهوم العقاب والقوة ودورهما في إدارة المجتمع وتحقيق حالة الانضباط ، قدم فيه فوكو نظريته التي ترسم طبيعة العلاقة بين القوة باعتبارها وسيلة للتأديب، والمعرفة باعتبارها الرافد الأعلى لهذه القوة. بعض مفكري السياسات الاجتماعية المعاصرين يعتقدون بأن الكثير من السياسات والتقنيات الاجتماعية التي تتبعها الدول المدنية الحديثة والمؤسسات الخاصة في إدارة سلوك كوادرها وأفرادها تستند على نظرية فوكو في مفهوم العقاب والقوة وعلاقتهما في توليد الانضباط التي طرحها في هذا ...more
Vivian Archer
This is not the kind of book you read in one sitting or forty for that matter. I did read the section that intrigued me and brought me to the novel in the first place and that was the Spectacle of the Scaffold. It was brilliant. The transition from monarchy imposed punishment to the state is outlined beautifully.

For my particular interest in comparing the spectacle, human sacrifice, devotion and distance it was an excellent resource. Thus my rating is based on this portion of the book. I intend
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The Awdude
This book marks Foucault's transition from an archaeological posture to a genealogical one, a theoretical shift which allows him to begin theorizing about the frighteningly inescapable dynamics of power. The writing is beautiful, haunting, and poetic in all the right ways, and the aesthetic grace with which he deploys his ideas almost eclipses the terrifying implications of their content. But not quite. There is no escaping the Panopticon of power! The technology of discipline and the diffuse me ...more
Phil
Any reader of Foucault knows that he is outside of the realm of philosophy "proper." Although some of his works are not entirely convincing (though always thought provoking), this one I found to be an excellent analysis of the transformation of the concept of the prison - and makes for a great compliment to his extensive and most intense study "The History of Madness."

One could easily take the writings of Foucault as sociological or historical analyses, place them within an ontic framework and
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Ally de Padua
Foucault for Historians, Foucault as Historian

"It’s true that I prefer not to identify myself, and I’m amused by the diversity of the ways I’ve been judged and classified. Something tells me that by now a more or less approximate place should have been found for me, after so many efforts in such various directions…I have to be convinced that their inability to situate me has something to do with me."

Michel Foucault, Interview with Paul Rabinow

Discipline and Punish is difficult when considered as
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Oliver Bateman
I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. Even in translation, Surveiller et punir is a thrilling work. Foucault constructs an elaborate argument about the development of the disciplines, the evolution of modern Western legal codes, and the shifting locus of "corrective" punishment, in the process using a fair assortment of primary sources to buttress his claims (more than in the History of Sexuality series, anyway...but perhaps not enough for many professional historians). What is mos ...more
Derek Baldwin
Foucault's greatest work, in my opinion, and certainly one of the more accessible.



The book begins with an extraordinary account of a regicide's slow and painful torturing to death. This is a visitation upon the body of the wrongdoer, says Foucault, of the sovereign's power, and typical of its time. But we have very gradually moved from this very overt and vengeful and direct form of the exercise of power to a far more subtle "disciplinary power".



In modern societies, he says, we mount surveillan
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Bay
Fascinating! Foucault begins by discussing how punishment has changed over time from a corporal, physical punishment to a punishment that is targeted at souls. The disciplinary and penal system changes as the body was discovered as an object and target of power. In the early 17th century, bodies were punished as an affirmation of the sovereign’s power. When a crime was committed, the offender was in essence “attack[ing] the very principle and physical person of the prince” (54). The king would t ...more
Sam Dembling
I had begun the book with the idea that it would be straight ahead philosophy, but it proved to be much more historical, recounting the transition from public tortures to mental institutions, from punishing the individual to rectifying his/her behavior, and other similar transitions. Throughout, Foucault avoids bold faced opinions, opting instead to blend his less charged ones with various quotes. As someone pointed out to me before I began reading it, Foucault points out problems well, but neve ...more
Leila T.
God, Foucault is so intense. I read this at university, and now that I think of it, I probably didn't end up reading the whole thing. I really do appreciate reading Foucault itself, not an interpretation of his stuff, but it's very long and dense and requires a level of concentration that most of my life does not demand; I am therefore unpracticed and inept.

The point of this review is that even if you read just a few chapters of this, it will be intellectually edifying. And I mean it will be mi
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Ruhat alp
devletin, suçlulara, aykırılara, delilere, düzene uymayanlara ve günümüz moda terimiyle ‘teröristlere’ ihtiyacı var...

Historically, the process by which the bourgeoisie became in the course of the eighteenth century the politically dominant class was masked by the establishment of an explicit, coded and formally egalitarian juridical framework, made possible by the organization of a parliamentary, representative regime. But the development and generalization of disciplinary mechanisms constitute
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tartaruga fechada
"[P]enal imprisonment is ... incapable of corresponding to the specificity of crimes. Because it has no effect on the public. Because it is useless, even harmful, to society: it is costly, it maintains convicts in idleness, it multiplies their vices ... [it] is difficult to supervise and because there is a risk of exposing prisoners to the arbitrary will of their guards ... it is obscurity, violence and suspicion. It is a place of darkness in which the citizen's eye cannot count the victims, in ...more
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Enduring Critical Value of Discipline & Punish? 5 106 May 23, 2012 01:51AM  
  • Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
  • Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste
  • Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
  • The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection
  • Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
  • Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments
  • The Arcades Project
  • Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics
  • Of Grammatology
  • The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
  • The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society
  • Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism
  • Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci
  • The Marx-Engels Reader
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism
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Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought," and lectured at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.

Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences and the prison sys
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More about Michel Foucault...
The History of Sexuality 1: An Introduction Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language The History of Sexuality 2: The Use of Pleasure

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“The 'Enlightenment', which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.” 43 likes
“There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations” 33 likes
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