Essay on Foucault and Punishment

Essay on Foucault and Punishment

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Change over time; that is a common theme with everything in the world. The concept of punishment is no different in that regard. In the 16th and 17th century the common view for punishing people was retaliation from the king and to be done in the town square. In what seemed to be all of a sudden, there was a change in human thinking, the concept of punishment changed to a more psychological approach compared to a public embarrassment/torture approach. The following paragraphs will discuss the development of prisons and what in fact gives people gives people the right to punish; as well as the overall meaning and function of prisons. The work by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison will help with the arguments at hand.
The first thing to be looked at is the change from a medieval concept of punishment to a more modern concept. What sparked this seemingly sudden change in thinking? Foucault describes how punishment was handled at the very first page of his book. He used an example of Robert-François Damiens, the man who tried to assassinate King Louis XV, and how he was used as a public display to show other towns people what would happen to them is such an act was to be attempted again. This was a specific example of how punishment was used in the form of torture and a public spectacle to embed fear into the minds of the public. A major aspect of punishment was the body, how to torture and be able to display it to the people. The public display was similar to a ceremonial occasion, as if it was a significant get together for the public, very similar to a state fair or a carnival. All of this changed in the coming decades, “disappearance of the tortured, dismembered, amputated body, symbolically brande...


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...medieval punishment style was a sort of vendetta against people who committed crimes because it was believed to be a crime against the crown. Medieval thinking transformed to a more humanitarian thought process by taking the public spectacle aspect of punishment out of the scenario and made it a part of the private sector of punishment. The new way of thinking also brought a social contract aspect to society. So if a person committed a crime it was not against the king or a higher power but the very people the criminal lives with, and they have the right to punish.



Works Cited

Foucault, Michel. "Torture and Punishment." Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Penguin, 1991. 8+. Print.
Myser, Michael. "The Hard Sell." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 15 Mar. 2007. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.
"Torture." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

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