Discipline – Focault [...]

Discipline, according to Foucault’s historical and philosophical analyses, is a form of power that tells people how to act by coaxing them to adjust themselves to what is ‘normal’. It is power in the form of correct training (Source)

Foucault argued that if you look at the way in which prisons operate, that is, at their mechanics, it becomes evident that they are designed not so much to lock away criminals as to submit them to training rendering them docile. Prisons are first and foremost not houses of confinement but departments of correction. The crucial part of this institution is not the cage of the prison cell, but the routine of the timetables that govern the daily lives of prisoners. What disciplines prisoners is the supervised morning inspections, the monitored mealtimes, the work shifts, even the ‘free time’ overseen by a panoply of attendants including armed guards and clipboard-wielding psychologists.

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The purpose of constant surveillance is not to scare prisoners who are thinking of escaping, but rather to compel them to regard themselves as subject to correction. From the moment of morning rise to night’s lights out, the prisoners are subject to ceaseless behavioural inspection.

The most chilling line in Discipline and Punish is the final sentence of the section entitled ‘Panopticism’, where Foucault wryly asks: ‘Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?’ If Foucault is right, we are subject to the power of correct training whenever we are tied to our school desks, our positions on the assembly line or, perhaps most of all in our time, our meticulously curated cubicles and open-plan offices so popular as working spaces today.

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