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Foucault

Foucault

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Published by Jeanelia Yap

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Published by: Jeanelia Yap on Oct 16, 2013
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Jeanelia Anne Yap2011-43155BA SociologyMichel Foucault made a shift of philosophy from being astructuralist to a poststructuralist. He has been preoccupied onwriting about history as he wrote
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prisons
and
History of Sexuality 
to name a few
.
As a structuralist, from his earlier works, he challengedhimself to write a history without conscious subjects. What he did isthat he “...apply the notion of the unconscious on a collectivelevel, proposing that for any given historical period there is a kindof unconscious structure to the whole organization of thoughtgenerally (e.g., thinkers are captive of their age. Attention isdirected to the unconscious forces which guides and direct theexplicit theories and other ideas... and not to the thoughts whichindividual thinkers consciously form...”
1
Thus there underlyingpresumption in the mind on a certain period.Basically, the development of ideas are highly dependent on itsgiven period and certain specific socio-historical conditions. When Iread Discipline and Punish, I thought that the introduction seemed tobe bizarre (i.e., from the experience of torture in public) andperverted or unnatural but that is because I did not understand thesituation of that historical period.
1Cuff, E.C.
 Perspectives in Sociology.
5
th
Ed. (
London : Routledge, c1998)
 
As a poststructuralist, Foucault then focused in th relationshipbetween knowledge and power. In the book, he demonstrated howdiscourses are formed by authority or social relations and the changeof the hegemonic ideology. He focused on the developments of how thebehavior of individuals is regulated and the improvement of bodiesand knowledge through time or to the description of the disciplinarypower of each functions in the society.In the history of sexuality, the normal idea of sex is passed onalongside with the idea of the abnormal. The idea for the managementof practices is to 'normalize' or to regulate the 'abnormal'activities. And this idea of monitoring is what Foucault called
surveillance.
2
From this idea, actions are in turn rationalized.The first chapters of the Discipline and Punish is situated on1757, Damien's execution before the eyes of public spectators, andafter 80 years about the regulation of the daily lives of inmates (heeven indicated the scheduled time of activities) but no ceremony orrituals two generations ago.He link the transition to modernity from the past on how the view onpower changes over time.His work on the birth of prison asked the question: "How did thecoercive, corporal, solitary, secret model of the power to punishreplace the representa-tive, scenic, signifying, public, collectivemodel?"
3
He also viewed the relationship between “the discursive
2
Foucault, M. T
he history of sexuality : an introduction. (New York : Vintage Books,1978.)
3
Foucault, M. Discipline and Punish. (New York: Vintage Books, 1979) p. 131
 
practice of systems of knowledge and the nondiscursive practice ofsocial institutions. These "middle regions" between the empirical(nondiscursive) orders and the (discur-sive) theories that interpretthem form the epistemological fields of our culture. What becomesclear in Discipline and Punish is that each archaeology of a systemof knowledge has never been other than a genealogy of power. ”
4
From his works that we primarily read in class, Foucault usedthe term 'subject' to describe the subersive character or thecontrolled or manipulated. E.C. Cuff, a sociologist, stated that thethe change towards modern society has replaced physical brutalitywith the sense that one is being subjected. This form of disciplineeffectively produced individuals who are self controlling [like theidea of the panopticon]. They live in the delusion that they are freebut they are not aware that they are being shaped and dominated by asophisticated form of power.
5
 We may notice that Foucault mostly used of major concepts suchas “power”, “knowledge” and “Body” to analyze certain forms ofdomination. The body is the material condition that is shaped bydifferent institutions. Productions and socializations are madepossible by the bodies. These institutions like the penal systemnecessitate the subjection of bodies to make them docile and obedient(other institutions like in economics, labor use physical force torestrain individual to do what he will but only what is favored by
4
Popen, S. Review of Foucault's Discipline and Punish.
The School Review, Vol.86, No. 4 (Aug., 1978), pp. 686-690. Chicago University Press.
5Cuff, 265

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