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michel foucault- reading copy.doc

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Philip Goodman

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THE BODY OF THE CONDEMNED- Michel Foucault SUMMARY • Foucault begins his article by comparing a public execution from the 1757 to the shift to prison rules from 1837 • he describes the major shift in the penal systems of Europe and America from the 18th to the 20th centuries • the shifts between the two reveal there has been a change in the law and order • one important change Foucault talks about is the disappearance of torture-- the body of the criminal disappeared from the view • public execution and public punishment ended • now the CERTAINTY of punishment and not its horror stops/ deters one from com- mitting a crime • sentences are now intended to correct and improve the individual • through this a sense of shame about punishment develops • Punishment no longer touches the body-- if it did it would only be to get at some- thing beyond the body: THE SOUL • now instead of executioners there are: doctors, psychiatrists, priests and jailers who are responsible to the well- being of the criminal • executions were made painless by drugs • the elimination of pain and thus the end of publicity were linked • between 1830 and 1848 public executions ended • the penalty now addressed the soul • judgement was now determined by the motives, passions and instincts of the crimi- nal-- not only punishing but also supervising and directing the individual • psychiatrists now decide on a criminal’s medico- legal treatment-- therefore the judges are not the only one who acts or judges the criminal • power is not a property but a strategy evident in the relations between people- pow- er relations operate and exist through people • we need to realize that power and knowledge are related • Foucault begins by explaining in detail how criminals were punished in the 1757-- how brutal it used to be-- torturing the body of the criminal • he begins with a scene of torture from the 1757 • he then jumps 80 years later and explains how the penal system has changed • earlier criminals were publicly executed while later the penal system changed to having a time- table • he describes a prison timetable from the 1830s to portray this extreme change which includes two factors: 1. the disappearance of torture as a public display 2. and the disappearance of the body as the major site of penal repression (con- trol) • “physical pain, the pain of the body itself, is no longer the constituent ele- ment of the penalty” these two factors listed above are the result of what Foucault says: morality and • humanization he states that by publicly torturing and executing prisoners, the penal system is in • effect committing the same act-- if not worse • criminals were given a strict time table of what time they must wake up, work, eat, and go to bed • they do not punish the same crimes or the same type of delinquent • The penal system in Europe and in the United States-- the entire economy of pun- ishment was redistributed • this time was a time where they saw new theory of law and crime, a new moral or political justification of the right to punish, old laws were destroyed, old customs died out • although there were so many changes, the most important that Foucault focuses on was-- the disappearance of torture as a public display • the body as the major target of penal repression disappeared • in this transformation, two processes were at work : 1. the first was the disappearance of punishment as a public display ■ the formality of punishment tended to decline ■ the use of prisoners in public works, cleaning streets or repairing the highways was practiced in Austria, Switzerland and United States such as Pennsylvania-- criminals were forced to work with bombs shells attached to them ■ this public exhibition was abolished practically everywhere at the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of the nineteenth century ■ punishment gradually stopped being publicly displayed ■ earlier punishment was seen as if the punishment was thought to equal if not exceed, in savagery the crime itself-- to show them the frequency of crime, to make the executioner resemble a criminal, judges murderers, to make the tortured criminal an object of pity or admiration ■ public execution is now seen as a fireplace in which violence bursts again into flame ■ punishment then will tend to become the most hidden part of the penal process ■ its effectiveness is seen as resulting from its positive assur- ance, not from its visible intensity-- it is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying display of public punishment that discourages crime • the sentences that judges pass is not activated by the desire to punish but rather intended to correct, reclaim and cure-- a technique of improvement • the disappearance of public execution marks therefore the decline of the display-- but it also marks an ease (loosen) of the hold on the body • generally speaking the punitive (concerning punishment) practices had become more quiet ◦ one no longer touched the body, or at least as little as possible • it was seen that imprisonment, confinement (restriction), forced labour, penal servi- tude (slavery), prohibition from entering certain areas, deportation-- are physical penalties-- unlike dines for example, they directly affect the body • the punishment- body relation is not the same as it was in the torture during public executions • the body now serves as an instrument or intermediary (person who negotiates)-- if one mediates upon it to imprison it, or to make it work, it is in order to take away the individual of a liberty that is regarded both as a right and as property • the body according to this penalty is caught up in a system of force and disadvan- tages, obligations and prohibitions • physical pain, the pain of the body itself is no longer part of the penalty • if it is still necessary for the law to reach and manipulate the body of the convict it will would be at a distance, in the proper way, according to strict rules and with a much higher aim • now doctors, priests, psychiatrists, psychologists, educationalists with their pres- ence near the prisoner reassure that the body and pain are not the ultimate ob- jects of its punitive action (body and pain is not their initial plan in punishment) • today doctors have to watch over those condemned (convicted) to seat, right up to the last moment--
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