Foucault News

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

Discipline and Punish

Contribution one
The following observations were compiled by Meaghan Morris and are extracted from ‘Fiche Technique’, in Meaghan Morris and Paul Patton (eds.). (1979). Michel Foucault: Power, Truth, Strategy. Sydney: Feral Publications, pp. 102-5. I’ve kept to the same format as appears in the book.

The reference is Michel Foucault. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan, London: Allen Lane, Penguin. First published in French as Surveiller et punir, Gallimard, Paris, 1975.


Welcome though it may be to see that this book was translated into English, it is unfortunate that this edition gives the appearance of having been hastily prepared. Apart from the inverted order of pp. 216-217, [this problem at least seems to have been rectified in more recent editions – CO’F] the text is often marred by errors in translation. Some of these, such as “of” instead of “on” (p. 76, eg., where the text reads “attack of bodies”), are quite minor; others, however, do seriously distort the sense of the original. What follows are some examples of passages which need correction – by no means a systematic checking of the translation:

(1) p. 126; “There is a difference in the temporal direction of punishment” risks confusing the reader. The difference referred to in the French is between, on the one hand, the systems of punishment operated in the reformatories and proposed by the reformers respectively, and, on the other hand, the old system; not a difference between the first two. The point is rather to stress their convergence with respect to what is called in the original “a reversal in the temporal direction of punishment” (“retournement temporel”, SP, 129).

(2) p. 127; “That was the method of the reformers.” should read “Take the method etc…” (“Soit”) SP, 131).

(3) p. 139; “Calculation” should be “calculus” (“calcul”, SP, 141); cf. p. 140 where “calculus” is used for the same French word.

(4) p. 185; “It is not simply at the level of consciousness, of representations and in what one thinks one knows, but at the level of what makes possible the knowledge that is transformed into political investment” should read: “… but at the level of that which makes a knowledge possible that political investment occurs.” (“… mais au niveau de ce qui rend possible un savoir que se fait l’investissement politique.” SP, 187).

(5) p. 233; “Differentiated because it had to have the same form” should read: “Differentiated because it had not to have the same form” (“differencié” puisqu’il ne doit pas avoir le même forme”, SP, 235).

(6) p. 272;”…if one can speak of justice” should read “…if one can speak of class justice” (“justice de classe”, SP, 277).

(7) p. 290; “I’m thirty-six at least” gives the impression that Foucault’s third character, a child of thirteen, has aged somewhat since the preceding paragraph. It should read: “My station: to begin with, I have thirty six at least”, i.e. stations – jobs not years. (“état”, SP, 297).

(8) p. 306; “… and by the same token that turning-point represented by the prison becomes less useful when, through the gap between its penitentiary discourse and its effect of consolidating delinquency, it articulates the penal and the disciplinary power.” should read: “and now at last becomes less useful that hinge constituted by the prison when, by the gap between its penal discourse and its effect of consolidating delinquency, it articulated penal and disciplinary power.” (“du coup devient moins utile cette charnière que constituait la prison quand, par le décalage entre son discours pénitentiaire et son effet de consolidation de délinquence, elle articulait le pouvoir pénal et le pouvoir disciplinaire.” SP, 313).

Contribution two

Comment contributed by Richard Lynch, May 2003.

The following phrase occurs near the conclusion of the first striking image that opens the book, the description of the execution of Damiens. This is a small detail, not significant but perhaps puzzling to some readers.

French Original
‘…un chien s’était couché le lendemain…’

Published English Translation
‘…a dog had lain the day before…
Michel Foucault. (1995). Discipline and Punish. New York: Vintage, p. 11.

Alternative Translation
‘…a dog had lain the day after…’

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