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Foucault: From Spectacle to Surveillance (Discipline & Punish)

This is a lecture for Arts One at the University of British Columbia, February 9. 2016

Christina Hendricks

on 3 January 2018

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Transcript of Foucault: From Spectacle to Surveillance (Discipline & Punish)

Michel Foucault's
Discipline & Punish

Christina Hendricks
Arts One, UBC

February 9, 2016
Presentation licensed CC BY 4.0:
Partitioning in space
Eat Sleep Work Die
Flickr, Jordan Richmond
Licensed CC BY
Flickr, MIKI Yoshihito
licensed CC BY
Cell block d
Flickr, Sean Hobson
licensed CC BY
Partitioning in time
Time; Flickr, JD; licensed CC BY
Soldats Revolution francaise, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
“The act is broken down into its elements; the position of the body, limbs, articulations is defined; to each movement are assigned a direction, an aptitude, a duration; their order of succession is prescribed. Time penetrates the body and with it all the meticulous controls of power” (152).
“ ... it is a question of extracting, from time, ever more available moments and, from each moment, ever more useful forces” (154).
The examination:
hierarchical surveillance & normalizing judgment
Image by Christina Hendricks
Flickr, licensed CC BY
Flickr, Alberto G., licensed CC BY
Exam room
Flickr, Dave Parker, licensed CC BY
From writings of Jeremy Bentham
Wikimedia Commons, PD
Flickr, Kees Romkes, licensed CC BY
"He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously on himself; ... he becomes the principle of his own subjection" (202-203).
"...it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little for
what matters is that he knows himself to be observed
; too much, because
he has no need in fact of being so
" (201).
Learning Management System
Flickr, Sandra Schon, licensed CC BY
"Power is not a thing, it is a relationship
Thank you!
Twitter: @clhendricksbc
Can comply or not,
or reverse power relation
Power relations are everywhere
"in human relationships, whether they involve verbal communication ... or amorous, institutional or economic relationships,
power is always present
: I mean a relationship in which one person tries to control the conduct of the other"
(Interview, "Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom,"
Foucault Live).
& Truth
"'Truth' is linked in
a circular relation
with systems of power ..."
Disciplinary power
supervision and control of “the smallest fragment of life and of the body”, in a “mystical calculus of the infinitesimal and the infinite” (140).
Focus on details, a "'micro-physics' of power" (139)
So are we stuck?
Power relations are everywhere
We are not only under frequent surveillance & examination, but we "discipline" ourselves to act as if we are even if we're not
Spectacle & Surveillance
Power and Resistance
"there is no relationship of power without
the means of escape
or possible flight"
Can comply or not:
can resist
, reverse or otherwise change the power relation
Tries to direct behaviour
How might resistance
to panopticism be possible?
Images not attributed are from Pixabay: http://pixabay.com
Freedom, for Foucault
Freedom is not:
escaping all power relations or being free from all restrictions
"a matter of
understanding how we have been moulded
.... [and] what else might be available to us. ... of
re-making ourselves into what we would like to be
…. within the parameters of a particular historical situation."
tries to direct behaviour
Michel Foucault, 1926-1984
Michel Foucault, painted portrait, Flickr photo shared by Thierry Ehrmann, licensed CC-BY 2.0
Surveiller et Punir
Political role of intellectuals
“...when I write a book
I refuse to take a prophetic stance
, that is, the one of saying to people: here is what you must do—and also: this is good and this is not. I say to them: roughly speaking, it seems to me that things have gone this way; but I describe those things in such a way that
the possible paths of attack are delineated
. . . . I would like to produce some effects of truth which might be used for a possible battle,
to be waged by those who wish to wage it
, in forms yet to be found and in organizations yet to be defined.”
Interview, "Clarifications on the Question of Power,
Foucault Live
“My role is to
address problems
effectively, really: and to pose them with the greatest possible rigor .... The problems that I try to address ... cannot be easily resolved. It takes years, decades of work carried out at the grassroots level with
the people directly involved;
and the right to speech and political imagination must be returned to them."
-- Interview,
Remarks on Marx
Power & Knowledge
between two individuals ... such that one can direct the behaviour of another or determine the behaviour of another" (
Society Must be Defended
Discipline & Punish
Making things more fragile
History and the present (DP 30-31)
It is a matter of making things more fragile through ... historical analysis, or rather of showing both how and why things were able to establish themselves as such .... [This can show that] what appears obvious to us is not at all so obvious. … I wanted to reintegrate a lot of obvious facts of our practices in the historicity of some of these practices and thereby rob them of their evidentiary status, in order to give them back the mobility that they had and that they should always have."
-- Interview, “What Our Present Is,”
Foucault Live
-- Interview, "The Subject and Power," Dreyfus & Rabinow,
Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism & Hermeneutics,

endless questioning
of constituted experience"; it “makes a virtue of change, endless rethinking, fundamental questioning."
"one should decipher in [power] a network of relations, constantly in tension, in activity, rather than a privilege that one might possess" (DP 26).
See also
Discipline and Punish (
Damiens (1757) & Faucher (1838)
Supplice de l'écartèlement (Damiens), public domain on Wikimedia Commons:
The body and the soul
"Punishment ... should strike the soul rather than the body" (Mably, quoted in DP, 16)
"The expiation that once rained down upon the body must be replaced by a punishment that acts in depth on the heart, the thoughts, the will, the inclinations" (DP 16).
A spectacle of power
Anne du Bourg execution in Paris, 1559; public domain on Wikimedia Commons:

“out of the ceremony of the public execution, out of that uncertain festival in which
violence was instantaneously reversible
, it was this solidarity [of the people & the criminal] much more than the sovereign power that was likely to emerge with redoubled strength” (63).
Gallows speeches
: “The condemned man found himself transformed into a hero by the sheer extent of his widely advertised crimes, and sometimes the affirmation of his belated repentance" (67).
"Docility-utility" (137)
making the body “more obedient as it becomes more useful, and conversely” (138).
-- Todd May,
Foucault: Key Concepts,
-- John Rajchman,
Michel Foucault: The Freedom of Philosophy
, 7, 98
"...everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then
we always have something to do
" (Interview, "On the Genealogy of Ethics,"
Foucault Live).
Normalizing judgment:
ranking individuals according to their distance from a norm; promoting conformity to it (181, 183)
Hierarchical surveillance:
a "pyramid" of observation (174-175)
“... a surveillance that makes it possible to qualify, to classify and to punish. It establishes over individuals a visibility through which one differentiates them and judges them” (184).
Seagate Wuxi China Factory Tour
Flickr photo by Robert Scoble, CC BY 2.0
Tiers of Tears
Flickr photo by Craig Sefton, CC BY-NC-ND
“the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form” (205)
Turns the visible from the sovereign to the subjects
"Traditionally, power was what was seen, what was shown and what was manifested .... In discipline, it is the subjects who have to be seen. Their visibility assures the hold of the power that is exercised over them" (187).
Plan for Millbank prison, 1828
public domain on Wikimedia Commons
Invisible visibility
has power
every point of a social body
, between a man and a woman, between the members of a family, between a master and his pupil, between every one who knows and every one who does not, there exist relations of power …” (Interview, “The History of Sexuality,”
(Interview, "Truth and Power,"
The leper colony & the plague
rejection, exile,
binary division
individual partitioning & surveillance
“Discipline ‘makes’ individuals” (170); "The individual is ... fabricated by this specific technology of power that I have called ‘discipline’” (194).
The examination makes of each individual a "case" (191)

The examination is the "pinning down of each individual in his own particularity" (192)
From the spectacle to the prison
Spectacle of public torture, execution
display of sovereign power
Imprisonment as general form of punishment
focus on physical pain
display of criminals
focus on transforming the soul
Development & spread of disciplinary mechanisms
From Spectacle to Surveillance:
Full transcript