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Foucault's Philosophy - Essay Example

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Michel Foucault is a modern-day philosopher whose best-known work is an incisive discussion on the evolution of the penal system in Western civilization. The paper "Foucault's Philosophy" aims to understand Foucault’s ‘Discipline’ and explain it in the context of personal insight…
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Foucaults Philosophy
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Download file to see previous pages It is important to situate the topic, to understand in what context it should be viewed in Foucault’s theory. Discipline is distinguished from either torture or punishment; by these distinctions, the discussions on discipline, therefore, excludes those practices that subject the body to atrocious and terrifying abuse, and the strictly punitive measures to which errant individuals are subjected for purposes of either retribution or rehabilitation in atonement for their misdeeds. In describing disciplines, Foucault goes through a description of what they are not. For one, disciplines are not slavery because they do not involve the ownership of the body and its attendant violence. They are not served because they do not subject the individual will to the expressed will of the master. Disciplines are not vassalage because the latter entails a distant relationship that exerts no power over individual behavior or department, but only on the claim to the products of labor and ritual symbols of loyalty. Finally, they are not ascetism, which is a spiritual renunciation of things worldly, and seeks to increase one’s utility over his own body – the reverse of what disciplines do. Foucault draws a parallel between economic exploitation and disciplinary coercion: "If economic exploitation separates the force and the product of labor, [then] disciplinary coercion establishes in the body the constricting link between an increased aptitude and an increased domination” (Foucault, 1977:138)....
They are not service, because they do not subject the individual will to the expressed will of the master. Disciplines are not vassalage because the latter entails a distant relationship that exerts no power over individual behaviour or deportment, but only on the claim to the products of labor and ritual symbols of loyalty. Finally, they are not ascetism, which is a spiritual renunciation of things worldly, and seeks to increase one’s utility over his own body – the reverse of what disciplines do. Foucault draws a parallel between economic exploitation and disciplinary coercion: “If economic exploitation separates the force and the product of labour, [then] disciplinary coercion establishes in the body the constricting link between an increased aptitude and an increased domination” (Foucault, 1977:138). Clearly, then, the aim of discipline is to make the body more capable to do things in a certain way, while at the same time detaching this competency from the individual’s will over it in favour of a higher degree of obedience to the external will. Discipline then is a “political anatomy of detail” (p. 139), and the results of discipline then are obedient or “docile” bodies. Foucault broadly traces the genealogy of disciplinary methods that span centuries. First among these is the art of distributions which refers to how the spatial allocation of individuals influences the body to comply with what is desired of the individual. These refer to enclosures such as factories, schools, barracks; partitioning, where “each individual has his own place, and each place its individual” (Foucault 1977:143); and functional sites architecturally designed to enhance supervision and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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