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An Introduction to Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish – A Macat Sociology Analysis


Welcome to the Macat Multimedia Series.
A Macat Analysis of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. How does a modern state ensure
that it controls its citizens? Michel Foucault,
a radical French social philosopher… …sought to answer this question
in his 1975 work, Discipline and Punish. Foucault’s book explores the evolution of power,
since the Middle Ages. Foucault’s main argument is that modern state have
moved away from enforcing their authority physically… …to enforcing it psychologically. To demonstrate his point,
Foucault examines a new type of prison… …created by the British social reformer,
Jeremy Bentham. Bentham’s “Panopticon” was a circular prison
with cells around the external walls… …and a watchtower erected in the centre. The theory was that inmates would assume
they were being watched… …and as a result would act accordingly… …eliminating the need for many
– or any – prison guards. This sort of ‘self-governance’ is the lynchpin
of Foucault’s theory of modern power. He argues that surveillance is being used
in our modern institutions… …as a key instrument to control
and govern the people. As Foucault was talking modern-day,
let’s examine a modern concept – CCTV. How is it used to control and govern society? The presence of surveillance helps to catch those
who break laws, by recording their activity. But it works on another level too
– as a deterrent. Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? A pedestrian is less likely to drop litter and
a graffiti artist is less likely to spray-paint a wall… …if they think they are being watched by CCTV. A driver is less likely to break the speed limit
if he believes a police camera is snapping away. Whether or not the cameras are switched on
is irrelevant. The mere presence of them is enough
to influence the behaviour of most people. Surveillance techniques are there
to ensure societal rules are followed… …but Foucault believed they have
huge negative implications. He claimed that awareness of being observed
stifled individuality and created conformity. People end up acting, thinking and being the same,
for fear of being caught out or punished. Foucault calls this ‘dynamic normalisation’. Foucault asserted that this ‘dynamic normalisation’
is fundamentally undemocratic… …because it ends up eradicating free will
and independent thinking, creating a society of ‘robots’. Foucault thought that, over time, this would quell our instinct to think for ourselves… …behave spontaneously
or develop original impulses or ideas. Foucault is considered to be
one of the most influential thinkers of our time. Discipline and Punish is a compelling study
of power and agency in the modern world. A more detailed examination of his ideas
can be found in the Macat Analysis.

Reynold King

7 Replies to “An Introduction to Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish – A Macat Sociology Analysis”

  1. Belief in being "observed", (whether factual or imaginary), results in self-imposed moral regulation, and moral social ordering.

  2. i think this perspective of seeing government is a little bit paranoic. People come on okey we have some issues about personal space but not that much! we can think independently if we want. I am now thinking about foucault's ideas (and criticizing it) and i am absoluetly free about it.(except my state of mind's fence (aka subjectivity)) what is the problem there? at some point it smells like conspiracy theory. Please discuss with me:)

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