Michel Foucault

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Michel Foucault

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...