Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison Discipline and Punish discussion


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Enduring Critical Value of Discipline & Punish?

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message 1: by Cat (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cat In the end analysis, what is this book worth. I'm a big fan, sure, but I'm also cognizant of Jurgen Habermas's critique of Foucault's program.

Classic of cultural history, or also-ran that will be forgotten with time- that's my question.


message 2: by jo (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo classic of cultural history. most def.


message 3: by Ali (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ali Ben Cat wrote: "In the end analysis, what is this book worth. I'm a big fan, sure, but I'm also cognizant of Jurgen Habermas's critique of Foucault's program.

Classic of cultural history, or also-ran that will..."


jo wrote: "classic of cultural history. most def."

His interpretation of Bentham's panopticon has been revised by specialists of Bentham. In the same way, some of his work on the "history of madness" has been questioned.

None of this, however - nor, of course, Habermas's stance against him, as this is just a matter of choice and personal tastes - deprives both works, as, in general, Foucault's work from being both classics and must-read.

Furthermore, some of the main thesis of "Discipline & Punish" are more relevant than ever: 200 years after the invention of prison, "reformists" still claim to "reform" the prison in order for it to help integration of "criminals"; whilst it is still used as a way to "defend society".

This book has tons of leads on everything. It oulines thesis on power, which will form the core of the first volume of the History of Sexuality . It shows that the failure of prison is its greatest "success", and is therefore the a groundbreaking work, if not the only one, on the criticism of criminal law, not to mention "criminology".

Perhaps even more amazing: even the hopeful mention that prison is living its last years - which appears a bit too hopeful today - is still, in part, relevant. Indeed, he understood, even before electronic monitoring came to fame, that prison was only one of a kind of surveillance technology, that could well be combined, if not replaced, by other, more "intimate", technologies.

I won't even bring the matter of the analogy made between prisons, schools, psychiatric hospitals and all these institutions of surveillance : if one can contest this analogy, it still retains a powerful relevancy which any schoolstudent can perfectly well understand sitting at his table alongside his comrades.

Classics are made of the stuff that they can never be just a "piece of history": even though some of its content may be relativized or contested, this book will provide a powerful way of understanding things to any reader, although each one may have a different perspective on it according to his position and birthyear.

To conclude, maybe the question should not be if Discipline and Punish "failed the test of time", but if we failed the test of time ? Indeed, who is ready, today, to take seriously this radical criticism of prison ? Today, that is at the time that the United States is alongside China and Russia in the number of prisoners it detains?


Henggao Panopticon is a architectural design for a prison. Foucault takes this design to say that the society is like a prison. The introductory paragraphs remind you of the Matrix. People are controlled by something they cannot see, but the thing controlling the people can see the people.


Robert Golden whatever the pros and cons of Discipline and Punish, when I read it a number of years ago, I found it startling and alive with different ways of thinking about society but as well it provided another was to reflect on our meta story of living in history....it is precisely the kind of thinking that makes learning and history exciting...and precisely this which young people should be introduced to......


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