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Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  16,455 Ratings  ·  518 Reviews
Barely two hundred and fifty years ago man condemned of attempting to assassinate the King of France was drawn and quartered in a grisly spectacle that suggested an unmediated duel between the violence of the criminal and the violence of the state. This groundbreaking book by the most influential philosopher since Sartre compels us to reevaluate our assumptions about all t ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1975)
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May 25, 2013 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David Withun
May 29, 2013 David Withun rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
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
Feb 01, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 07, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
“Discipline 'makes' individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise.”
― Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish


I've had this book for nearly twenty years on myself. Before a couple weeks ago I never quite found myself in the "right" mood for a French post-structural look at power, prisons, and punishment. It is interesting reading this and thinking about how influential Foucault was in the modern criticisms of the pe
Aug 22, 2007 Cat rated it really liked it
Shelves: culturalhistory
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
May 05, 2016 Abubakar rated it really liked it
Foucault begins this book by recounting the fate of a man called Damien the regicide, who attempted to assassinate King Louis XV of France in 1757. He was publicly tortured for hours, beaten, stabbed and crushed only to be quartered by horses at last. Foucault says that Public executions and scenes like this were common and happened every once in a while for those who were accused of heinous crimes. This practice, perfectly inhuman and brutish, was officially sanctioned just two centuries ago. C ...more
Apr 03, 2007 Conrad rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 10, 2007 Jessica marked it as owned-for-years-but-still-not-read
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
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.
Jan 10, 2008 Lex rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
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.
Justin Mitchell
Oct 01, 2013 Justin Mitchell rated it liked it
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison, Michel Foucault
عنوان: مراقبت و تنبیه: تولد زندان؛ اثر: میشل فوکو؛ ترحمه: نیکو سرخوش؛ افشین جهاندیده؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، نشر نی، 1378، در 391 ص، مصور، شابک: 9789643124328؛ چاپ دوم 1378، چاپ چهارم 1382، چاپ ششم 1385، چاپ هشتم 1388، چاپ یازدهم 1392؛ کتابنامه به صورت زیرنویس، نمایه دارد، موضوع: زندان، انضباط، ثواب و عقاب
با عنوان فرعی «زایش زندان»، عنوان کتابی از «میشل فوکو» فیلسوف فرانسوی، «فوکو» در سالهای 1972 و 1973 میلادی، سخنرانیهایی در «فرانسه» و «بر
Sean Chick
May 26, 2015 Sean Chick rated it did not like it
The first two chapters are interesting, although his defense of public torture is idiotic. His critique of modern society is a stunning case of postmodern claptrap. My god, prisons are meant to dissuade us from committing crime! You don't say! He essentially says Enlightenment reform was actually insidious and bad for humanity. In this way he is actually a conservative, by calling into question all the reasons for reform. The fact that the left embraced this book, which was a grand critique of l ...more
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
Feb 26, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jonathan-David Jackson
Apr 18, 2012 Jonathan-David Jackson rated it liked it
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
Sep 21, 2015 Ietrio rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
A book about "look how smart I can be". An intellectual fraud is trying to write. Something. Anything! As long as the minions can cry in ecstasy. So one can find a symbol or a ritual in anything. This way the doctor is not at the execution because it's the only one who can sign death certificates, or because executions can go terribly wrong, but to "juxtapose himself as the agent of welfare, as the alleviator of pain."

The whole volume is a series of speculations based on shallow correlation. Thi
Erik Graff
Jun 15, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mar 21, 2012 Jake rated it liked it
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
Sep 03, 2011 Salma marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
أشعر بالغيظ، فقد قلبت مكتبتي مرتين و أنا أبحث عنه عبثا، أذكر أني خبأته في مكان ما... و لكني نسيت أين خبأته... فقط لحسن الحظ أني لم أخبئ معه نقودي و إلا كانت ضاعت هي الأخرى معه... و لكني طمأنت نفسي بأنه ربما من حسن الحظ أكثر أن ليس لدي نقود تستحق أن أخبئها فأنسى أين وضعتها هي الأخرى فتضيع علي
راودتني نفسي بقراءة النسخة الالكترونية
و لكني تراجعت عنها لأني كنت سأشعر بالغيظ مرتين من نفسي لأني سأكون أضعته مرتين حينها، مرة حين خبأته و مرة حين اشتريت النسخة الورقية عبثا و لم أقرأها... حسنا سأحاول البحث م
Aug 06, 2008 Aaron rated it it was amazing
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
يبدأ الكتاب بصور لوسائل التعذيب قبل القرنين الثامن عشر و التاسع عشر ، من حرق لسحل وصولا لتقطيع الأوصال و تمثيل بالجسد حيا كان أم ميت ، و كل هذا حينها كان يتم على مرأى من عامة الناس ، بعد ذلك ينتقل إلى الإصلاح الذي طرأ على فكرة السجن بحد ذاتها ، الإصلاح الذي مكَّن الدولة من الهيمنة على الشعب دون اللجوء لكل هذه الأساليب ، مع الإبقاء عليها بعيدة عن العين ﻹستعمالها عند "الضرورة" ، حيث و بعد أن كانت هذه الأساليب بفترة زمنية معينة أمر عادي أو طارئ صارت تسمى بفترة زمنية أخرى "مروعة و غير مقبولة" ، يستف ...more
Jun 01, 2009 Matt rated it liked it
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
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
Rosa Ramôa
Dec 25, 2014 Rosa Ramôa rated it really liked it
Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984)

Referência para estudantes de filosofia, história, sociologia, política, psicologia e quaisquer outras ciências humanas e sociais.Qualquer universidade do mundo tem a sua bibliografia...

Publicou vários livros.

Andou em esquinas.Em mundos e submundos.Nunca se encontrou...

Desceu e subiu escadas
Às vezes as mesmas
Sempre as mesmas

Usou máscaras...Foi prodigioso.

Viveu vidas...

Viveu limites e extremos...
Feb 11, 2011 Vivian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory
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
Having previously been exposed to Foucault through a reader, it was nice to see a book-length context for his meditations on the birth of the prison. What impresses me most about Foucault are his abilities as a great synthesizer of knowledge, taking a vast body of textual evidence and orchestrating that evidence into a theoretically solid thesis, which is a skill that so few theorists seem to have. As a precise history, I have few quibbles with his reporting, and his theory seems completely vali ...more
May 30, 2015 Elen rated it really liked it
Finally reading Foucault after reading a ton of stuff that was (supposedly) inspired by Foucault made me realize I like Foucault a LOT more than I like people who like Foucault.
Janne Peltola
Aug 23, 2015 Janne Peltola rated it it was amazing
Foucault applies his thinking about power to the corrective system. He frames power as a human game for control and the prison system as an example of societal control. The corrective system is not only a way to protect citizens from dangerous individuals, but also a way to assert control over these individuals. The modern corrective system doesn't aim to punish, but to ensure that wayward individuals are reformed into societal norms.

Any reading of Foucault expands one's mind, but this one in pa
Jul 02, 2016 Víctor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
El libro está dividido en cuatro partes: suplicio, castigo, disciplina y prisión. Las primeras páginas están dedicadas a describir, descarnadamente, el suplicio a Robert François Damiens, que,
francamente, fue lo que me atrajo cuando lo comencé a leer en formato digital, y la razón última por la que lo compré en papel posteriormente.

Foucault es muy francés: casi todas sus referencias históricas se restringen a su lengua y región, aunque sin menoscabo alguno, ya que se debe reconocer que, Francia,
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Enduring Critical Value of Discipline & Punish? 5 110 May 23, 2012 09:51AM  
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  • Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex"
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  • Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology
  • The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
  • The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry Into a Category of Bourgeois Society
  • Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism
  • The Practice of Everyday Life
  • Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics
  • The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays
  • One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society
  • Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity
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  • Illuminations: Essays and Reflections
  • Selections from the Prison Notebooks
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
More about Michel Foucault...

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“The 'Enlightenment', which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.” 61 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” 44 likes
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