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Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  19,698 Ratings  ·  637 Reviews
Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here.

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.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 25th 1995 by Vintage (first published 1975)
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May 25, 2013 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
Apr 06, 2013 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
Apr 05, 2015 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
Dec 26, 2012 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
Abubakar Mehdi
Apr 21, 2016 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
Aug 22, 2007 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
Apr 03, 2007 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
Ovo je bilo mnogo prijatnije iskustvo nego što sam očekivala - e, da mi je Nadzirati i kažnjavati pre iks godina bio prvi Fuko, a ne Reči i stvari, ko zna šta bi bilo.
S druge strane, drago mi je što ga čitam s malo razvijenijim kritičkim mišljenjem nego onomad sa dvaes godina :P Jer Fuko piše tako super retorički zavodljivo a usto potkovano činjenicama da mic po mic čitalac krene da prihvata i one klimavije delove njegovih teorija o zatvoru kao sistemu za (jelte) nadziranje i kažnjavanje koji u
Jan 03, 2008 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.
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.
Nov 10, 2007 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
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
This book made me think I must be getting older. Why? Because I used to enjoy trying to parse the unnecessarily complex and obtuse sentences of French intellectuals and now I seem to lack the patience. (A glorious example: "The moment that saw the transition from historico-ritual mechanisms for the formation of individuality to the scientifico-disciplinary mechanisms, when the normal took over from the ancestral, and measurement from status, thus substituting for the individuality of the memorab ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
"Gözlem altına almak, disiplinsel yöntemler ve inceleme usulleri tarafından istila edilmiş olan bir adaletin doğal uzantıları olmaktadırlar. Bölümlere ayrılmış kronolojisi, sorunlu çalışması, gözetim altında tutma ve kaydetme mercileri, yargıcın uzantısı olan ve onun görevlerini artıran normalleştirme hocalarıyla, hücrelerden oluşan hapishanenin modern cezalandırmanın aracı olmasında şaşılacak bir şey yoktur. Eğer hapishane fabrikalara, okullara, kışlalara benziyorsa ve bunların da hepsi hapisha ...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
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
Jul 15, 2007 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
May 30, 2015 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.
Jonathan-David Jackson
Apr 15, 2012 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
Oct 14, 2009 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
Ayham Albahesh
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
Erik Graff
Feb 28, 2010 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
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 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
Sep 03, 2011 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
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: inmates, guards, and parole officers
This should be required reading if you plan to work in our criminal justice system at all. Foucault can be hard to slog through sometimes, but is always worth it.

I just wonder what he would think of our current warehousing prison system. We haven't really gone the direction that he anticipated.
Mack Hayden
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Take this review with a grain of salt since I’d say about half of this book flew over my head completely. The density of the prose plus the preponderance of documents cited in giant chunks made this something of a slog for me. But when Foucault comes through loud and clear, almost in spite of himself, his insights are brilliant. The ideas in here about contemporary Western society’s obsession with ‘norms’ and the ways in which disciplinary, penal structures have woven their way into nearly every ...more
Mar 14, 2012 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
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
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Foucault blends together History, Philosophy and Sociological study with a level of nuance and depth that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. Every assertion and observation is backed up with painstaking historical documentation and research. He takes a single institution and from it unravels the subtle, sinister narratives and ideas which underpin the modern age. Discipline and Punish manages to articulate something malefacent about our age that we are somehow aware of, but just cou ...more
May 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: The French
This book is terrible. Is it history? Is it philosophy? It is neither, both, and blows. I will let Foucault in on a little secret: when you write a book in which you are presenting an argument, the readers should not be made to have their eyes start bleeding as they try to pinpoint and tack down exactly what your argument is. Yes, many women will be impressed by your colorful, flowery language and you will get laid. However, no one will ever understand what you are on about. Hmm, maybe that was ...more
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Enduring Critical Value of Discipline & Punish? 5 118 May 23, 2012 01:51AM  
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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
More about Michel Foucault...

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“The 'Enlightenment', which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.” 73 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” 60 likes
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