Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

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Foucault has mistaken the idea of prison, as reflected in the discourse of criminologists, for its practice. More precisely put, Foucault presents the utopian ideals of eighteenth-century prison reformers, most of which were never realized, as though they were the actual reforms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One can see this even in the pictures in Discipline and Punish, many of which are drawings for ideal prisons that were never built. One photograph is of the panopticon prison buildings at Stateville, but it is evidently an old photograph, one in which no inmates are evident. Nor are the blankets and cardboard that now enclose the cells

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‘Imaginative, illuminating and innovative’ The New York Times Book Review

The grisly spectacle of public executions and torture of centuries ago has been replaced by the penal system in western society – but has anything really changed?

In his revolutionary work on control and power relations in our public institutions, Michel Foucault argues that the development of prisons, police organizations and legal hierarchies has merely changed the focus of domination from our bodies to our souls. Even schools, factories, barracks and hospitals, in which an individual’s time is controlled hour by hour, are part of a disciplinary society.

‘Foucault’s genius is called forth into the eloquent clarity of his passions … his best book’ Washington Post

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