Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Michel Foucault and the philosophy of punishment, Talking history, Panel discussion, 29 November 2014 Newstalk radio 106-108FM. Irish radio station

Page includes audio podcast.

The philosophy of punishment is an area of study that is relatively unaddressed and certainly does not resonate in the wider public consciousness.

The work of Michel Foucault went a long way to shedding further light on the philosophies behind discipline and punishment. This was particularly evident with his work ‘Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison’ (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison) published in 1975.

While much study had been conducted in this area prior to Foucault, with this publication, he brought the issue to the fore in the 20th century.

Foucault analysed the development of a culture that resulted in the prison system dominating the area of punishment, as society gradually moved away from the use of torture.

Foucault ultimately suggests that it is the use and subjugation of power that influences an institutions use of punishment. He rejects any notion that the development of this system had been motivated by any humanitarian ideals, or that this philosophy of punishment was initially intended as a form of rehabilitation.

While he does not suggest that this is the result of some grand master plan, he evaluates why it has developed in this manner and how this relates to society on a larger scale.

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