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Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison Paperback – April 25, 1995
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Original Language: French
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Top Customer Reviews
Within five minutes of my residence there are two large Texas state prisons. The offenders incarcerated in these facilities exist in a network of interlocking disciplinary mechanisms, mechanisms that Foucault unveils in this book. The criminal justice system, the prison environment, the educational/training opportunities available during incarceration, parolee supervision, and the limited employment options on release all coordinate to encapsulate the offender's life. The offender's agency is significantly impaired for the balance of his life regardless of his domiciliary.
I live in a master planned, suburban community subject to a detailed and lengthy list of deed restrictions. These deed restrictions dictate the colors that I can paint my house, the height to which my grass can grow, the type of trees that I can plant in the front yard as well as the insistence that I plant three trees in my front yard. My wife and I have had to paint the front door twice in the last four years to comply with homeowner association threats, and we have been chastised for offenses as "severe" as leaving a hose uncoiled for too long in the front yard.
Now I admit that there is a modicum of agency in my decision to live in this specific community; however, just like the offenders incarcerated nearby, I live in a network of interlocking disciplinary mechanisms. I contend that my agency is also significantly impaired. The difference between my life and the offender's life is one of degree, not kind.
This is the message Foucault communicates with both style and substance in this book.Read more ›
Although the book traverses a lot of historical ground, Foucault's discussion culminates in an analysis of Jeremy Bentham's prison concept. Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism philosophy, believed that individual rights are subordinate to the state. In fact, he went so far as to call them "nonsense on stilts." As long as the government protected its people and treated them decently, he did not believe that the polity could be accused of oppressing its citizen - be they convicts or otherwise. Thus, Bentham was the first philosopher to give the modern penal system its rational underpinnings. Today, we take it as a matter of course that those who do not conform to laws are trucked off to prison. But with this book, Foucault attempts to completely undermine our intuitive sense of what is right, what is coercive, what is rational, and ultimately what is true. Perhaps better than any other author out there, Foucault shows us the subtle madness of Western institutional logic.
Foucault focused on Bentham's prison model, or the Penopticon as Bentham called it - which literally means, that which sees all. The Penopticon prison, which was popular in the early nineteenth century, was designed to allow guards to see their prisons, but not allow prisoners to see guards. The building was circular, with prisoner's cells lining the outer diameter, and in the center of the circle was a large, central observational tower.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Of all the books I have read in my lifetime there has never been equal in the nightmare this book presents because it is upon us all with NSA surveillance. Read morePublished 27 days ago by chezlouise
Foucault is a classic, must-read for any CJ/penology/criminology major. It is a little tedious, but nevertheless an important piece of literature that will help you gain insight... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Sheila
Great read! If you have any interest in prisoner reform or prison abolition.Published 2 months ago by Richard A Figueroa
This translation isn't the best, the original English translation that was published alongside the original French version (from the late 70's) is much better, but quite rare and... Read morePublished 2 months ago by John Beneke
Foucault's work is translated from French and some of the ideas presented in this book may or may not be how Foucault originally intended them to be understood. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Lance