29+ quotes from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault

Quotes from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Michel Foucault ·  352 pages

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“The 'Enlightenment', which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“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”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“But let there be no misunderstanding: it is not that a real man, the object of knowledge, philosophical reflection or technological intervention, has been substituted for the soul, the illusion of theologians. The man described for us, whom we are invited to free, is already in himself the effect of a subjection more profound than himself. A 'soul' inhabits him and brings him to existence, which is itself a factor in the mastery that power exercises over the body. The soul is the effect and instrument of a political anatomy; the soul is the prison of the body.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“there is no glory in punishing”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Traditionally, power was what was seen, what was shown, and what was manifested...Disciplinary power, on the other hand, is exercised through its invisibility; at the same time it imposes on those whom it subjects a principle of compulsory visibility. In discipline, it is the subjects who have to be seen. Their visibility assures the hold of the power that is exercised over them. It is this fact of being constantly seen, of being able always to be seen, that maintains the disciplined individual in his subjection. And the examination is the technique by which power, instead of emitting the signs of its potency, instead of imposing its mark on its subjects, holds them in a mechanism of objectification. In this space of domination, disciplinary power manifests its potency, essentially by arranging objects. The examination is, as it were, the ceremony of this objectification.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“A real subjection is born mechanically from a fictitious relation [...] He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribed in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“But a punishment like forced labour or even imprisonment – mere loss of liberty – has never functioned without a certain additional element of punishment that certainly concerns the body itself: rationing of food, sexual deprivation, corporal punishment, solitary confinement … There remains, therefore, a trace of ‘torture’ in the modern mechanisms of criminal justice – a trace that has not been entirely overcome, but which is enveloped, increasingly, by the non-corporal nature of the penal system”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“The man described for us, whom we are invited to free, is already in himself the effect of a subjection much more profound than himself. A 'soul' inhabits him and brings him to existence...the soul is the effect and instrument of political anatomy; the soul is the prison of the body.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the social worker-judge; it is on them that the universal reign of the normative is based; and each individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behavior, his aptitudes, his achievements.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Discipline 'makes' individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise. It is not a triumphant power...it is a modest, suspicious power, which functions as a calculated, but permanent economy.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“it is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of public punishment that must discourage crime”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“This is the historical reality of the soul, which, unlike the soul represented by Christian theology, is not born in sin and subject to punishment, but is born rather out of methods of punishment, supervision, and constraint.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“In the darkest region of the political field the condemned man represents the symmetrical, inverted figure of the king.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Exercise is the technique by which one imposes on the body tasks that are both repetitive and different, but always graduated. By bending behavior towards a terminal state, exercise makes possible a perpetual characterization of the individual...It thus assures, in the form of continuity and constraint, a growth, an observation, a qualification.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Today, criminal justice functions and justifies itself only by this perpetual reference to something other than itself, by this unceasing reinscription in non-juridical systems.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“We are entering the age of the infinite examination and of compulsory objectification.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Le supplice ne rétablissait pas la justice, il réactivait le pouvoir.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“The chronicle of a man, the account of his life, his historiography, written as he lived out his life formed part of the rituals of his power. The disciplinary methods reversed this relation, lowered the threshold of describable individuality and made of this description a means of control and a method of domination.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“A utopia of judicial reticence: take away life, but prevent the patient from feeling it; deprive the prisoner of all rights, but do not inflict pain; impose penalties free of all pain. Recourse to psycho-pharmacology and to various physiological ‘disconnectors’, even if it is temporary, is a logical consequence of this ‘non-corporal’ penality. The”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“But the punishment-body relation is not the same as it was in the torture during public executions. The body now serves as an instrument or intermediary: if one intervenes upon it to imprison it, or to make it work, it is in order to deprive the individual of a liberty that is regarded both as a right and as property. The body, according to this penality, is caught up in a system of constraints and privations, obligations and prohibitions. Physical pain, the pain of the body itself, is no longer the constituent element of the penalty. From being an art of unbearable sensations punishment has become an economy of suspended rights.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“...Rusche and Kirchheimer relate the different systems of punishment with the systems of production within which they operate: thus, in a slave economy, punitive mechanisms serve to provide an additional labour force -- and to constitute a body of 'civil' slaves in addition to those provided by war or trading; with feudalism, at a time when money and production were still at an early stage of development, we find a sudden increase in corporal punishments -- the body being in most cases the only property accessible; the penitentiary (the Hopital General, the Spinhuis or the Rasphuis), forced labour and the prison factory appear with the development of the mercantile economy. But the industrial system requires a free market in labour and, in the nineteenth century, the role of forced labour in the mechanisms of punishment diminishes accordingly and 'corrective' detention takes its place.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“The examination combines the techniques of an observing hierarchy and those of a normalizing judgement. It is a normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish. It establishes over individuals a visibility through which one differentiates them and judges them. That is why, in all the mechanisms of discipline, the examination is highly ritualized. In it are combined the ceremony of power and the form of the experiment, the deployment of force and the establishment of truth. At the heart of the procedures of discipline, it manifests the subjection of those who are perceived as objects and the objectification of those who are subjected. The superimposition of the power relations and knowledge relations assumes in the examination all its visible brilliance.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“How could the disciplines and the power that functions in them appear arbitrary, when they merely operate the mechanisms of justice itself, even with a view to mitigating their intensity?”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“But it must not be forgotten that ‘politics’ has been conceived as a continuation, if not exactly and directly of war, at least of the military model as a fundamental means of preventing civil disorder.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“sería hipócrita o ingenuo creer que la ley se ha hecho para todo el mundo en nombre de todo el mundo; que es más prudente reconocer que se ha hecho para algunos y que recae sobre otros; que en principio obliga a todos los ciudadanos, pero que se dirige principalmente a las clases más numerosas y menos ilustradas; que, a diferencia de lo que ocurre con las leyes políticas o civiles, su aplicación no concierne por igual a todo el mundo,39 que en los tribunales la sociedad entera no juzga a uno de sus miembros, sino que una categoría social encargada del orden sanciona a otra que está dedicada al desorden:”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Le droit de punir a été déplacé de la vengeance du souverain à la défense de la société.”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


“Punishment of a less immediately physical kind, a certain discretion in the art of inflicting pain, a combination of more subtle, more subdued sufferings, deprived of their visible display, should not all this be treated as a special case, an incidental effect of deeper changes? And yet the fact remains that a few decades saw the disappearance of the tortured, dismembered, amputated body, symbolically branded on face or shoulder, exposed alive or dead to public view. The body as the major target of penal repression disappeared. By”
― Michel Foucault, quote from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison


About the author

Michel Foucault
Born place: in Poitiers, France
Born date June 15, 1926
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