Michel Foucault, generally in his philosophy, has created a system wherein he
examines the relations of power as they are transmuted down in a society (not one
that it is held by individuals-and, indeed, it is not so perpetuated), wherein the
refinement of discourse over time allows for the normalization of behaviors and then that
individuals are encouraged, as docile bodies, to adhere to this program of normalization.
Foucault locates the origins of this process in asylums and prisons, and considers them an
Enlightenment technological development, which he calls "technologies of the self":
But I became more and more aware that in all societies there is another type of technique:
techniques which permit individuals to affect, by their own means, a certain number of
operations on their own bodies, their own souls, their own thoughts, their own conduct,
and this in a manner so as to transform themselves, modify themselves, and to attain a
certain state of perfection, happiness, purity, supernatural power. Let us call these kinds
of technologies technologies of the self. (Foucault "Sexuality and Solitude 367)
Foucault locates these technologies of the self at the center of the process of
normalization that has shifted the process of punishment from an outward display of
power as in medieval executions to an internal process in which the prisoner becomes
complicit in his own punishment. By employing these technologies of the self an
increasingly analytical and ever more refined manner power is able to normalize almost
all of life and make the distinction between punishment and education trivial.
In attempting to diagnose the evolutionary trend of the manner in which
punishment has been historically meted out throughout the ages, Foucault suggests that
there has been a gradual evolution from tactics of raw displays of power to more subtle...