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Foucaults Contribution to Punisment Theory

The people in question were lawbreakers, malefactors, criminals–those who were apprehended and punished for contravening the sovereign’s laws. They became and continue to be individuals who, having contravened the laws of societies having modern legal structures, undergo complex processing in institutionalized judicial and penal systems that center on the incarceration of offenders. Discipline and Punish is ostensibly about the change from lawful punishment as brutal monarchical vengeance to lawful punishment as humanized deterrence and rehabilitation. What the book is really about is the production of subjects through the imposition of disciplines. it is about how the process of constant observation, assessment, and control of inmates in the modern penitentiary manufactures new subjects through the employment of management techniques that intrude into and govern every aspect of life. But what makes Discipline and Punish more than a study of penalty is its portrayal of techniques employed in the manufacture of these new subjects as those more widely used in the production of the contemporary norm-governed social individual. (Richard Marsden, 1999).
Foucault’s point of departure in rethinking a subject-matter is to impugn the commonplace, to query accepted knowledge. In applying genealogy to penalty, Foucault impugns the commonplace view that our present penitentiary-centered penal system is the result of the progressive humanization of earlier, more ruthless methods of retributive punishment. Foucault begins by discussing how spectacular public punishments and executions constituted standard procedure for dealing with lawbreakers in the European monarchical order to roughly the mid-eighteenth century. He then considers two notable changes that took place: punishment and execution came to be conducted within official enclosures, and incarceration in penitentiaries emerged as the chief means of punishment and deterrence. Foucault challenges the accepted view that these changes were due to an increasingly humane attitude toward criminals. He offers an alternative account of how and why treatment of criminals ceased to be public, and of how and why the penitentiary, an establishment without strong precedents at the time, emerged as the favored institutional device for dealing with lawbreakers. (Jeremy R. Carrette, 2000).
As to punishment: Foucault notes that theorists like Cesare Beccaria, and later Patrick Colquhoun and Jeremy Bentham, begin to insist that the gravity of the punishment ought to be proportionate to the crime. Penal reformers like John Howard agitate against punishments which work on the body either as a site of sensation or symbolically (for instance, the cutting out of the tongue for blasphemy) in favour of those which work on the body as the home of that discursive object, the "soul." Also, it began to be argued that punishment should be hidden from the public gaze. As early as 1751, in his Enquiry into the Causes of the Unfortunate Late Increase of Robbers, Henry Fielding had

Foucaults Contribution to Punisment Theory