Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

by Michel Foucault

Other authorsAlan Sheridan (Translator)
Paperback, 1979




Vintage, (1979)


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.

Media reviews

Whatever the disagreements, "Discipline and Punish" is that rare kind of book whose methods and conclusions must be reckoned with by humanists, social scientists and political activists.

User reviews

LibraryThing member johnredmond
A very big book for me. Still many insights, even if I'm no longer in the same place I was when I first read it. Foucault and Ivan Illich (and for that matter Wendell Berry but from a different perspective) should be read by all those who consider the social environment in which we live to be somehow "natural".
LibraryThing member TakeItOrLeaveIt
Foucault is a historian, at least a his-story-ian. and this is an interesting story. take the soul out of the prisoner, the atrocities of the execution, the discipline and punishment pre 1847 when peasants enjoyed the spectacle of watching a man have his limb's ripped apart for killing another man. this is good writing.
LibraryThing member rivkat
It’s easy to understand why Foucault was such an influential theorist; his explanation of the use of information collection and standardization to work on the body, in places from prisons to hospitals to armies to schools, offers a powerful theoretical apparatus with lots of applications across countries, times, and situations. That said, if you’ve read summaries elsewhere, it’s not clear to me that you need to read this book (cf. Bowling Alone). One very striking thing to me, since I also just finished Matt Taibbi’s The Divide, was how much these two books described the exact same thing: the extension of categorization, surveillance, and manipulation to poor people, who gain “identity” by being classified and recorded. By contrast, rich people gain identity (and even acclaim) by being above the law—that’s not Foucault’s focus, but he mentions it. Thus the modern army and modern capitalism go hand in hand.… (more)
LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
Foucault relates developments in prisons and punishment with larger trends in culture and civilization. He argues that ancient regime punishment of the body evolved into punishment of the mind or spirit. He relates these changes to capitalism.
LibraryThing member beau.p.laurence
not the easiest read, I grant you, but indispensible history (both social and as a business) of "corrections"
LibraryThing member Ramirez
Prison is the symbol of a certain idea of society and of the mechanics of power inside it.

From the excessive and bloody justice of the ancien régime to a disciplinary society in which ongoing examinations take place every time and the judges-controllers are a lot more than we think.

Foucault gives to the prison also a political contingence but tells us also that soon or later it will not be necessary anymore, for the widening of punish/reward connections with the consequent fainting of punishments' intensity will make detrimental to mantain structures for the total submission and recostruction of individuals such as jails.

The only problem of this intelligent and challenging book is that Foucault seems shy to share his opinion on the issue; nearly as if he's afraid of 'abuse' of his power and influence over the reader.
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LibraryThing member Wilwarin
The few chapters I read for school were interesting. Might come back to read the whole book sometime.
LibraryThing member bnielsen
Indeholder "The body of the condemned", "The spectacle of the scaffold".

"The body of the condemned" handler om ???
"The spectacle of the scaffold" handler om ???

Foucault's syn på fængsling og henrettelse.
LibraryThing member RajivC
I must say that "Discipline and Punish" is a difficult book to review. It is excellent, and it is deep. The book starts with the description of a prisoner being tortured and killed. The final stages of the torture, and the execution used to take place in the public sphere.

We may be squeamish today, but we cannot state that torture has disappeared from the world. It has just disappeared from the public eye.

From there, he moves on to the concept of punishment, and the various theories that prevailed. And, of course, the practices. For me, the most interesting chapters were those that pertained to discipline, the panopticon, and delinquency.

I don't think that 'the birth of the prison' is a good subtitle. This book is much deeper than that.

It revolves around the concept of power (initially with the king), punishment, society's attitudes towards this, discipline and society; and finally, the Panopticon. This concept was centuries ahead of its time.

In many ways, society is living in a Panopticon today.
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LibraryThing member jukke
Pity that there is not so much Foucault in Finnish. He really is quite difficult to read in French, at least for the uninitiated, who are prone to take a joke seriously or a profound remark as a joke


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