Writing Out Loud: Discipline and Punish

The beginning of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish is grim. Its vivid portrait of the torture and execution of Robert François-Damiens illustrates just how far the modern penal system has come. However, Discipline and Punish is not just a book about prisons – it is also about how we discipline and control our bodies. Answer the following questions after completing the reading.

Theme: Pathway to Meltdown


  1. The bulk of the reading is about the Panopticon, an architectural design for prison in which every cell is visible from a central tower. What does Foucault contend is the major effect of the Panopticon?
  2. What do you think Foucault means when he writes that “our society is one not of spectacle, but of surveillance”?
  3. Foucault argues in the conclusion that discipline is not just about control--it also produces new kinds of knowledge. He cites the rise of psychiatry and clinical medicine as examples. In an online society like our own, it is easy to spot instances of surveillance, such as when Facebook tracks our spending habits. But can you think of examples where such forms of discipline and surveillance have produced new kinds of knowledge?
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