48 pages 1 hour read

Michel Foucault

Discipline And Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1975

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Part 3

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 3: “Discipline”

Part 3, Chapter 1 Summary: “Docile bodies”

Foucault opens the chapter with the image of the soldier. The mind immediately conjures adjectives like “strength” and “bravery” when thinking about a soldier. Foucault argues that the 18th century ushered in a new way of thinking about this figure. It was believed that soldiers could be made and molded. This was primarily done by rendering the individual into a docile body. The philosopher defines a docile body as one that can be improved and used. During the 1700s, all institutions began to utilize docile bodies and the strategies required to form them. Prisons, schools, hospitals, factories, and military barracks relied upon docile bodies to advance the organization and function of the whole.

Foucault outlines several disciplines of these institutions and the means by which they form docile bodies. The first is through the art of distributions, which defines how bodies appear within a physical space. In this system of discipline, bodies must be enclosed in a building: children in a school, prisoners in a prison. The space must be further separated. Everyone is given a specific and ordered spot within the confined space. Architecture served to provide these spaces as well as places where others could supervise.