Foucault News

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

Paolo Vernaglione Berardi
Archeologia della penalità psichiatrica.
Psichiatri, giudici e degenerati

During the 1970s, Michel Foucault realized the most important ensemble of research about psychiatry intertwined with the penal system. The courses at the Collège de France: ‘La Societé Punitive’ (1971-72), ‘Le Pouvoir Psychiatrique’ (1972-73), ‘Les anormaux’ (1974-75), the book Surveiller et Punir (1975), combined with the frequent interventions about prison and the institutions of contention, constitute the field of archaeology of the societies of discipline.

The transformation of the sovereign power exercised by the King into bio-power constitutes a radical change of the techonologies of government. Bodies and population are the target of bio-power. Psychiatric hospitals, schools, the army, and prisons were all built on the model of Bentham’s “Panopticon”, which had assumed the function of control and of behavioural correction.

After the reform of the penal code (1835 in France), the psychiatric report had been introduced at large in trials. Meanwhile, the psychiatry had built the profile of the “dangerous individual”, which was put together in the nineteenth century. This profile was broken down into three categories: the “criminal monster”, the “pervert”, the “misfit”. In short, every small figure of abnormality.

These two articles (XIX-XX) try to reconstruct the specific issue related to the archaeology of penal psychiatry, following the main transformations of the discipline. Societies of normalization produce a docile subject. The practices of confession and self interrogation produce a theatre of the self. All these measures emerge in social conflicts, and mark the relationships between disciplinary power and anti-psychiatry. These experiences could have configured “another knowledge” and “another life”, and very well may continue to as such.

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