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Summary Of The Book
French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote Discipline And Punish: The Birth Of The Prison, with a view to analyse the various mechanisms that led to significant changes in the penal systems in the West, during the modern ages, while focussing on the French system.
Discipline and Punish: The Birth Of The Prison begins by discussing how the concept of punishment has evolved over time. It chronicles the different types of disciplinary systems in societies, while studying the differences in punishment systems used in the past as compared to modern times.
The book is a gripping body of work, with brilliant, philosophical insights, that suggest a distinct shift in focus of punishment, from the prisoner's body, to his soul, as can be seen from the reforms made, such as abolishing torture, and the evolution of the present day penitentiary system.
The main themes discussed in the book are punishment, torture, discipline, and prison. In the Middle Ages, gaols and dungeons served as prisons, however, punishment was delivered by making it a public spectacle. This early emphasis on public torture, is described in an account of a regicide's excruciatingly slow death, in the mid-eighteenth century. With the passage of time, socio economic and cultural changes called for a better system of control over individuals.
Foucault explains how the Western system of prisons, police organizations, administrative and legal hierarchies, grew in prominence, as a result of the shift of emphasis from the very direct and vengeful forms of punishment, to a much more covert ‘power of discipline’. This power germinated from institutions such as schools, barracks, factories, and hospitals which all commonly exercise control on individuals on an hour-to-hour basis.
Considered a best-selling work of critical and social theory, Foucault’s Discipline And Punish: The Birth Of The Prison, with its numerous editions, is prescribed and studied as a key text for many undergraduate courses across a wide range of disciplines.
About Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist, and literary critic, considered highly influential in his field.
His body of work includes, The Birth of the Clinic, The Order of Things, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, and The Archaeology of Knowledge.
Born on October 15, 1926, in Poitiers, France, he was educated at the École Normale Supérieure, where his interest in philosophy was ignited. A cultural diplomat for many years before becoming an author, he lectured in many European colleges, including the Universities of Hamburg, Uppsala, Lill, and Warsaw. On returning to France, he served as the Chairman of History of Systems of Thought at the College of France, until his death. His interest lay in human sciences, including psychiatry, literature, and intellectual history. Regarded as one of the great French thinkers of his time, he received a medal from France's Center of Scientific Research in 1961. He died of a neurological disorder in 1984.
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