Jeanelia Anne Yap 2011-43155 BA Sociology

Michel Foucault made a shift of philosophy from being a structuralist to a poststructuralist. He has been preoccupied on writing 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 challenged himself to write a history without conscious subjects. What he did is that he “...apply the notion of the unconscious on a collective level, proposing that for any given historical period there is a kind of unconscious structure to the whole organization of thought generally (e.g., thinkers are captive of their age. Attention is directed to the unconscious forces which guides and direct the explicit theories and other ideas... and not to the thoughts which individual thinkers consciously form...”1 Thus there underlying presumption in the mind on a certain period. Basically, the development of ideas are highly dependent on its given period and certain specific socio-historical conditions. When I read Discipline and Punish, I thought that the introduction seemed to be bizarre (i.e., from the experience of torture in public) and perverted or unnatural but that is because I did not understand the situation of that historical period.
1 Cuff, E.C. Perspectives in Sociology. 5th Ed. (London : Routledge, c1998)

As a poststructuralist, Foucault then focused in th relationship between knowledge and power. In the book, he demonstrated how discourses are formed by authority or social relations and the change of the hegemonic ideology. He focused on the developments of how the behavior of individuals is regulated and the improvement of bodies and knowledge through time or to the description of the disciplinary power of each functions in the society. In the history of sexuality, the normal idea of sex is passed on alongside with the idea of the abnormal. The idea for the management of 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 on 1757, Damien's execution before the eyes of public spectators, and

after 80 years about the regulation of the daily lives of inmates (he even indicated the scheduled time of activities) but no ceremony or rituals two generations ago. He link the transition to modernity from the past on how the view on power changes over time. His work on the birth of prison asked the question: "How did the coercive, corporal, solitary, secret model of the power to punish replace the representa-tive, scenic, signifying, public, collective model?"3 He also viewed the relationship between “the discursive

2 Foucault, M. The history of sexuality : an introduction. (New York : Vintage Books,

3 Foucault, M. Discipline and Punish. (New York: Vintage Books, 1979) p. 131

practice of systems of knowledge and the nondiscursive practice of social institutions. These "middle regions" between the empirical (nondiscursive) orders and the (discur-sive) theories that interpret them form the epistemological fields of our culture. What becomes clear in Discipline and Punish is that each archaeology of a system of knowledge has never been other than a genealogy of power. ”4 From his works that we primarily read in class, Foucault used the term 'subject' to describe the subersive character or the controlled or manipulated. E.C. Cuff, a sociologist, stated that the the change towards modern society has replaced physical brutality with the sense that one is being subjected. This form of discipline effectively produced individuals who are self controlling [like the idea of the panopticon]. They live in the delusion that they are free but they are not aware that they are being shaped and dominated by a sophisticated form of power.

We may notice that Foucault mostly used of major concepts such as “power”, “knowledge” and “Body” to analyze certain forms of domination. The body is the material condition that is shaped by different institutions. Productions and socializations are made possible by the bodies. These institutions like the penal system necessitate the subjection of bodies to make them docile and obedient (other institutions like in economics, labor use physical force to restrain 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.
5 Cuff, 265

the powerful) then eventually the internalization leads to selfcontrol that brought influence to the soul which manages behavior. The micro-physics of power reveals the essence of power. For Foucault, power is not a property of a particular class or individuals or an instrument but it is the concept that denotes certain types of domination and subordination on any social relations. Power then is a universal aspect of social life and productive than repressive and “ acting through individuals rather than “against” them.”6 Knowledge, on the other hand, as Foucault used it, is involved in the relationship between various forms of knowledge and the body. Francis Bacon once stated that “knowledge is power” but as for Foucault, these entities develop together and they cannot be spoken by separately. His use of the term "power-knowledge" is a kind of conceptual shorthand used to emphasize these interconnections. As society goes towards modernity, new types of power exist [for instance 'developments' in disciplining in prison system]. The taken for granted presupposition on Power is that it is exclusive to an exclusive group of people (e.g., the ruling class), a notion of power with a subject. Since in modernity, as Niklas Luhmann commonly argue, functions are widely diffused or differentiated. Power, in the case of modernity, transcends to power without a subject or not exclusive to a certain function system.7 In a Foucauldian contention, the
6 Garland, D. Critique of Foucault's "Discipline and Punish", American Bar Foundation Research Journal, Vol. 11, No. 4 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 848 7 Luhmann, N. Differentiation in Society. (Columbia University Press, 1982)

management has been internalized to the activities of individuals. Disciplinary power is opposing to sovereign power, a kind of power who has a ruler and conscious subjects. In modernity, power is

complementary with the complexity of systems as it came in many directions and permeate in any aspect of the society. It is everywhere. Disciplinary power then result to a well-disciplined individual or in the symbolic interactionism, it is a much higher but a punitive form of George Herbert Mead's generalized other that 'normalizes'and internalizes the norms to conform in the society. One central theme in Discipline and Punish is the concept of the panopticon [which is derived from Jeremy Bentham's ideology of utilitarianism and the theory of the ideal prison]. It is used by Foucault as a representation of disciplinary power as it projects the structure to unconsciously reinforce people to control themselves through the contemplation of their own behavior. It is a surveillance, the all seeing eye that constantly monitor the conduct of the prisoner. It is like a situattion in classrooms with the teacher overlooking the students, he stated "a sort of apparatus of uninterrupted examination that ... enabled the teacher, while transmitting his knowledge, to transform his pupils into a whole field of knowledge"8 the examination "combines the techniques of an observing hierarchy and those of a normalizing judgment. It is a normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish. It establishes over individuals a
8 Foucault, 186

visibility through which one differentiates them and judges them" Foucault discussed the development of prisons. Punishments in


the pre-modern era is chiefly centered on the body of the criminal. Several forms of execution, torture and other kinds of punishments done in public where socially accepted and some time regarded as a public spectacle. This conception of punishment in pre-modern is clontrary to Emile Durkheim's theory that every crime is a misdemeanor to the body of the society. Imprisonment, on the other hand, is just an agency to make sure that criminals will be nearby in the time of his punishment and not seen as a punishment in itself. Like asylums and confinement areas, it is also a mechanism to remove or separate the criminals to the non criminals in the society. We read that in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, punishments follow certain rituals and death penalties were replaced by physical mutilation. This is again changed as the relationship of individual to the society and conception of crime were modified in a progressing society. The idea became is now centered on control as a form of discipline in which every action of the criminal is reflected to monitoring. This is the evolution of the shifting of sovereign power to disciplinary power, from the control of a royal ruler to the individuals who control themselves. It is a reformation of power from a lighter supervision to a more forceful supervision. I would like to reiterate that most of Foucault's works are most
9 Foucault, 184

likely influenced by Nietzsche, who stated that reason subjugates the existence of individual to the Dionysian nature and science is just a product of will to power instead of being a conduit for emancipation of humanity (i.e., most Hegelian Marxists, with the addition of

Hegelian Dualism of subjectivity and objectivity, believed that in the end of human history, human beings will be free through the help of knowledge or the process of self-knowledge leads to freedom in a certain material condition). Scientific knowledge, then, is a form of disciplinary power that is just a reformation of controlling individuals. Science makes people slaves of reason and not a mechanism for actual freedom. People do not realize that they are subjected to domination and there is no progress for deliverance at all. Foucault related power/knowledge to science as a more effective way of manipulation of individuals. In the history of sexuality, Foucault explained sexuality as discourse as it creates its own object. What Foucault articulated is the social constructivism of sexuality. The concept of the discourse modifies dependently on a certain historical context. In the Victorian Era, as we know it, people are forbidden to talk about sex. The Philippines may still be considered as a conservative country in terms of sexual liberation due to tradition of conservatism or to the conformism of most Filipinos to the church's iconic stand on sexuality thus making our country a sexually repressive civilization. We cannot talk about the discourse of sex and it is entirely forbidden. Sexual Repression does not only pertain

to the act itself but also to our opinion about it. What we do is we continue to tell the story of silence and the limits of language but the mere fact that we are discussing the history of sexuality is already a discourse. What is ironic is that we keep on talking about the thing which we are supposed to not to talk about which makes the narrative on repression untrue But what we may consider is that there is a change on how we talk about sex and on how we view the discourse on sexuality.10 The views on sex changes as society engages in transition to modernity. On seventeenth century, any expression of feelings or reactions towards sex is strictly prohibited then there is an effort to speak about it scientificaly or in confession of sins [or academically] then it became a norm that sex is a “sacred”* thing for reproduction (it is even the case that St. Thomas Aquinas account sexual reproduction as one of the Natural moral law of the virtuous). Confessions are actual forms of sexual expression but its supposed intention is to “resolve the bodily sin one has committed”. The same with science, psychoanalysts like Sigmund Freud often relate abnormal conditions to sex or to explain certain types of behavior or attitudes of a person. The discourse on sex now become a part of the medical discourse to cure certain illness or untypical behavior. Cuff articulated that
...the new medical vocabulary is entirely continuous with the

old mora vocabulary of sin, transgression and guilt... The 10 Cuff, 269 * used to emphasize opinions

medicalization od sexual discourse simply involves substituting newly coined, scientific-sounding words for previous, moralising terms; the concerns of social control are retained but now less overtly...seemingly technical/scientific.

The power on the discourse of sexuality is not referring to the activity or to the repression but the productive power is giving rise to a new discourse on sexuality.11 For instance, the repression on homosexuality. It was considered as a medical illness in the medical discourse. Foucault stated that before engaging to same-sex relationships, the concept of 'homosexual' did not exist but it came along with the formation of the discourse. The objective of the formation of the concept is to repress homosexual activity but it is the case that the homosexuals have labeled themselves their own social category (from being deviant) to seek social acceptance and legitimation of their sexual activities. To summarize, Foucault's view was quite relativistic in the sense that he stated that the “progress” to discourses are merely reorganization of structures that is dependent of the sociohistorical period. He challenged the thought that self-knowledge leads to emancipation and articulated that this progress to freedom is an illusion to begin with. He argued that knowledge does not guarantee emancipation and it always comes with knowledge and will always be related to each other. His philosophy involved the development of discourse and how
11 Foucault,

ideas on certain phenomena has progressed over time and only with discourse, ideas will be formulated. It is quite interesting that his studies is what we now took

for granted. Discourse is everywhere, the development of language itself is a reification of the ideas that emerged through time. He also discussed the modern society that it implant self-control and discipline on the individual and that there is an “encompassing system” or power that monitors regulation of attitude. Power is everywhere, it is not limited to poitical discourse or centered at anything but it came from the complex networks in society. The patterns of discipline and knowledge (the surveillance) is concerned with the body but through power, people control and regulate themselves.



Individuals Prison Other insitutions



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