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Annotated Extracts from Michel Foucault

in chronological order and related to history

Foucault, M. 1961 Folie et Déraison: histoire de la folie à l' âge classique.
(Paris: Plon, 1961) became
Histoire de la Folie. Literally translated, the full title may mean Madness and Unreason: history of madness in the classical age. The classical age here is roughly the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, periods often referred to as the Age of Reason or Enlightenment

Foucault, M. 1967 Madness and Civilisation. A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Tavistock. Being an abridged edition of Histoire de la Folie translated into English by Richard Howard. Introduction by David Cooper. (Extracts on The Classical Period   The Great Confinement   Tuke's Retreat

Foucault, M. 1975 Surveiller et Punir: Naisance de la Prison
Éditions Gullimard

Foucault, M. 1977 Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, being Surveiller et Punir translated into English by Richard Howard. (Extracts on binary division - Bentham - prison - Mettray)

The extracts from Foucault's books have been put into chronological order and related to history. Four periods used by Foucault in Madness and Civilisation are the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Classical Period and the Modern. Plus 1926 on

Slave Economy   Feudalism   Middle Ages   Renaissance   1490   1650   1750   1790   1831   1836   1838   1839   1840   1841

Historical summary from Discipline and Punish

Rusche and Kirch-heimer relate the different systems of punishment with the systems of production within which they operate: thus, in a slave economy, punitive mechanisms serve to provide an additional labour force - and to constitute a body of 'civil' slaves in addition to those provided by war or trading; with feudalism, at a time when money and production were still at an early stage of development, we find a sudden increase in corporal punishments - the body being in most cases the only property accessible; the penitentiary (the Hopital General, the Spinhuis or the Rasphuis), forced labour and the prison factory appear with the development of the mercantile economy. But the industrial system requires a free market in labour and, in the nineteenth century, the role of forced labour in the mechanisms of punishment diminishes accordingly and 'corrective' detention takes its place.


General statement about the body from Discipline and Punish

But we can surely accept the general proposition that, in our societies, the systems of punishment are to be situated in a certain 'political economy" of the body: even if they do not make use of violent or bloody punishment, even when they use 'lenient' methods involving confinement or correction, it is always the body that is at issue - the body and its forces, their utility and their docility, their distribution and their submission. It is certainly legitimate to write a history of punishment against the background of moral ideas or legal structures. But can one write such a history against the background of a history of bodies, when such systems of punishment claim to have only the secret souls of criminals as their objective?

Historians long ago began to write the history of the body. They have studied the body in the field of historical demography or pathology; they have considered it as the seat of needs and appetites, as the locus of physiological processes and metabolisms, as a target for the attacks of germs or viruses; they have shown to what extent historical processes were involved in what might seem to be the purely biological base of existence; and what place should be given in the history of society to biological 'events' such as the circulation of bacilli, or the extension of the life-span (cf. Le Roy-Ladurie). But the body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. This political investment of the body is bound up, in accordance with complex reciprocal relations, with its economic use; it is largely as a force of production that the body is invested with relations of power and domination; but, on the other hand, its constitution as labour power is possible only if it is caught up in a system of subjection (in which need is also a political instrument meticulously prepared, calculated and used); the body becomes a useful force only if it is both a productive body and a subjected body. This subjection is not only obtained by the instruments of violence or ideology; it can also be direct, physical, pitting force against force, bearing on material elements, and yet without involving violence; it may be calculated, organized, technically thought out; it may be subtle, make use neither of weapons nor of terror and yet remain of a physical order. That is to say, there may be a 'knowledge' of the body that is not exactly the science of its functioning, and a mastery of its forces that is more than the ability to conquer them: this knowledge and this mastery constitute what might be called the political technology of the body. Of course, this technology is diffuse, rarely formulated in continuous, systematic discourse; it is often made up of bits and pieces; it implements a disparate set of tools or methods. In spite of the coherence of its results, it is generally no more than a multiform instrumentation. Moreover, it cannot be localized in a particular type of institution or state apparatus. For they have recourse to it; they use, select or impose certain of its methods. But, in its mechanisms and its effects, it is situated at a quite different level. What the apparatuses and institutions operate is, in a sense, a micro-physics of power, whose field of validity is situated in a sense between these great functionings and the bodies themselves with their materiality and their forces.

Docile bodies

The classical age discovered the body as object and target of power. It is easy enough to find signs of the attention then paid to the body - to the body that is manipulated, shaped, trained, which obeys, responds, becomes skilful and increases its forces. The great book of Man-the-Machine was written simultaneously on two registers: the anatomico-metaphysical register, of which Descartes wrote the first pages and which the physicians and philosophers continued, and the technico-political register, which was constituted by a whole set of regulations and by empirical and calculated methods relating to the army, the school and the hospital, for controlling or correcting the operations of the body. These two registers are quite distinct, since it was a question, on the one hand, of submission and use and, on the other, of functioning and explanation: there was a useful body and an intelligible body. And yet there are points of overlap from one to the other. La Mettrie's L'Homme-machine is both a materialist reduction of the soul and a general theory of dressage, at the centre of which reigns the notion of 'docility', which joins the analysable body to the manipulable body. A body is docile that may be subjected, used, transformed and improved. The celebrated automata, on the other hand, were not only a way of illustrating an organism, they were also political puppets, small-scale models of power: Frederick II, the meticulous king of small machines, well-trained regiments and long exercises, was obsessed with them.

The Middle Ages

binary division and branding: leprosy

the binary branding and exile of the leper ( 1977 p.-)

At the end of the Middle Ages, leprosy disappeared from the Western world... From the High Middle Ages to the end of the Crusades, leprosariums had multiplied... ( 1967 p.3)

The Renaissance

... at the gates of cities, there stretched wastelands which sickness had ceased to haunt... From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, they would wait... a new incarnation of disease... (1967 p.3)

Up to the second half of the fifteenth century ... the theme of death reigns alone... Then in the last years of the century... the mockery of madness replaces death and its solemnity. (1967 p.15)

Main works Foucault comments on:

1494 Sabastian Brant Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools). Poem very popular in Germany. Translated into Latin (Stultifera Navis) and French in 1494. Translated into English in 1509. weblinks: Houston   some illustrations   Catholic Encyclopedia   wikipedia Germany   Duchan Caudill  

1490-1500 Hieronymus Bosch The Ship of Fools: weblinks: artarchive   webmuseum

The Classical Period

In the classical period, indigence, laziness, vice, and madness mingled in an equal guilt within unreason; madmen were caught in the great confinement of poverty and unemployment... (1967 p.259)

By a strange act of force, the classical age was to reduce to silence the madness whose voices the Renaissance had just liberated, but whose violence it had already tamed.

The Great Confinement

[Hôpital Général - Royal Edict of 27.4.1656 (1967 p.39)
Foucault quotes from articles four and twelve he gives the date of the edict on page 46, and says the institution was to prevent "mendicancy and idleness as the source of all disorders" (1967 p.47)]

...the seventeenth century created enormous houses of confinement...more than one out of every hundred inhabitants of the city of Paris found themselves confined there, within several months... From the middle of the seventeenth century, madness was linked with this country of confinement, and with the act which designated confinement... A date can serve as a landmark: 1656, the decree that founded, in Paris, the Hôpital Général. At first glance, this is ... little more than an administrative re-organisation. Several, already existing establishments are grouped under a single administration: the Salpétrière, rebuilt under the previous reign to house an arsenal; Bicêtre, which Louise 13th had wanted to give to the Commandery of Saint Louis as a rest home for military invalids;

"the House and the Hospital of La Pitié, the larger as well as the smaller, those of Le Refuge, situated in the Faubourg Saint Victor, the House and Hospital of Scipion, the House of La Savonnerie, with all the lands, places, gardens, houses, and buildings thereto appertaining".

All were now assigned to to the poor of Paris

"of both sexes, of all ages and from all localities, of whatever breeding and birth, in whatever state they may be, able-bodied or invalid, sick or convalescent, curable or incurable"

These establishments had to accept, lodge, and feed those who presented themselves or those sent by royal or judicial authority..

[Directors, appointed for life, exercised power throughout Paris: (1967 p.40)]

"They have all power of authority, of direction, of administration, of commerce, of police, of jurisdiction, of correction and punishment over all the poor of Paris, both within and without the Hôpital Général"

[a semijudicial structure: (1967 p.40)]

... the Hôpital Général is a strange power that the King establishes between the police and the courts, at the limits of the law: a third order of repression. The insane whom Pinel would find at Bicêtre and at La Salpêtriée belonged to that world.

... the Hôpital Général is not a medical establishment. [See 17th century definition of hospital in French dictionary]. It is.. a... semijudicail structure... which, along with the already constituted powers, and outside of the courts, decides, judges and executes.

"The directors having for these purposes stakes, irons, prisons, and dungeons in the said Hôpital Général and the places therto appertaining so much as they deem necessary, no appeal will be accepted from the regulations they establish within the said hospital; and as for such regulations as intervene from without, they will be executed according to their form and tenor, notwithstanding opposition or whatever appeal made or to be made, and without prejudice to these, and for which, notwithstanding all defense or suits for justice, no distinction will be made"

[royal power - ecclesiatical elided: pages 40-41]

It was directly linked with the royal power which placed it under the authority of the civil government alone; the Grand Almonary of the Realm, which previously formed an ecclesiastical and spiritual mediation in the politics of assistance, was abruptly elided...

[edict of June 16, 1676: (1967 p.41)]

An edict of the King, dated June 16, 1676, prescribed the establishment of an "hôpital général in each city of his kingdom".

plague city:

coercive assignment of differential distribution

[ (1977 pp 195-200)]

The following, according to an order published at the end of the seventeenth century, were the measures to be taken when the plague appeared in a town.

First, a strict spatial partitioning: the closing of the town and its outlying districts, a prohibition to leave the town on pain of death, the killing of all stray animals; the division of the town into distinct quarters, each governed by an intendant. Each street is placed under the authority of a syndic, who keeps it under surveillance; if he leaves the street, he will be condemned to death....

Inspection functions ceaselessly. The gaze is alert everywhere: 'A considerable body of militia, commanded by good officers and men of substance', guards at the gates, at the town hall and in every quarter to ensure the prompt obedience of the people and the most absolute authority of the magistrates, 'as also to observe all disorder, theft and extortion'....

Every day, too, the syndic goes into the street for which he is responsible; stops before each house: gets all the inhabitants to appear at the windows ... Everyone locked up in his cage, everyone at his window, answering to his name and showing himself when asked - it is the great review of the living and the dead.

This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in l which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised, in which all events are recorded, in which an uninterrupted work of writing links the centre and periphery, in which power is exercised without division, according to a continuous hierarchical figure, in which each individual is constantly located, examined and distributed among the living beings, the sick and the dead - all this constitutes a compact model of the disciplinary mechanism. The plague is met by order; its function is to sort out every possible confusion: that of the disease, which is transmitted when bodies are mixed together; that of the evil, which is increased when fear and death overcome prohibitions. It lays down for each individual his place, his body, his disease and his death, his well-being, by means of an omnipresent and omniscient power that subdivides itself in a regular, uninterrupted way even to the ultimate determination of the individual, of what characterizes him, of what belongs to him, of what happens to him. Against the plague, which is a mixture, discipline brings into play its power, which is one of analysis...

... there was... a political dream of the plague, which was ... strict divisions; ... the penetration of regulation into even the smallest details of everyday life through the mediation of the complete hierarchy that assured the capillary functioning of power;... the assignment to each individual of his 'true' name, his 'true' place, his 'true' body, his 'true' disease...

Confinement, then the plague gave rise to disciplinary projects. Rather than the massive, binary division between one set of people and another, it called for multiple separations, individualizing distributions, an organization in depth of surveillance and control, an intensification and a ramification of power...

... project the subtle segmentations of discipline onto the confused space of internment, combine it with the methods of analytical distribution proper to power, individualize the excluded, but use procedures of individualization to mark exclusion - this is what was operated regularly by disciplinary power from the beginning of the nineteenth century in the psychiatric asylum, the penitentiary, the reformatory, the approved school and, to some extent, the hospital.

Generally speaking, all the authorities exercising individual control function according to a double mode; that of binary division and branding (mad/sane; dangerous/harmless; normal/abnormal); and that of coercive assignment of differential distribution (who he is; where he must be; how he is to be characterized; how he is to be recognized; how a constant surveillance is to be exercised over him in an individual way, etc.)....

The constant division between the normal and the abnormal, to which every individual is subjected, brings us back to our own time, by applying the binary branding and exile of the leper to quite different objects; the existence of a whole set of techniques and institutions for measuring, supervising and correcting the abnormal brings into play the disciplinary mechanisms to which the fear of the plague gave rise. All the mechanisms of power which, even today, are disposed around the abnormal individual, to brand him and to alter him, are composed of those two forms from which they distantly derive.

Bentham's Panopticon is the architectural figure of this composition

The ordinace of 1670
(1977 page 32)

Discipline & Punish: Part One, Torture. Chapter 2. The spectacle of the scaffold

The ordinance of 1670 regulated the general forms of penal practice up to the Revolution. It laid down the following hierarchy of panalties:

"Death, judicial torture pending proof, penal servitude, flogging, amende honorable, banishment"

A high proportion of physical punishment. Customs, the nature of the crimes, the status of the cndemned accounted for still more variations.

"Capital punishment comprises many kinds of death: some prisoners may be condemned to hang, others to having their hands cut off or their tongues cut out or pierced and then to be hanged; others, for more serious crimes, to be broken alive and to die on the wheel, after having their limbs broken; others to be broken until they die a natural death; others to be strangled and then broken; others to be burnt after first being strangled; others to be drawn by four horses; others to have their heads cut off; and others to have their heads broken." (Soulatges, pp 169- 171

Eighteenth century reform
(1977 pages 81-82)

Discipline & Punish: Part Two, Punishment. Chapter 1. Generalised punishment

Throughout the eighteenth century, inside and outside the legal apparatus, in both everyday penal practice and the criticism of institutions, one sees the emergence of a new strategy for the [p.82] exercise of the power to punish. And 'reform', in the strict sense, as it was formulated in the theories of law or as it was outlined in the various projects, was the political or philosophical resumption of this strategy, with its primary objectives to make of the punishment and repression of illegalities a regular function, coextensive with society; not to punish less, but to punish better, to punish with an attenuated severity perhaps, but in order to punish with more universality and necessity; to insert the power to punish more deeply into the social body" (Foucault, 1977 pp 81-12).

" 'Reform,' in the strict sense, as it was formulated in the theories of law or as it was outlined in the various projects, was the political or philosophical resumption of this strategy, with its primary objectives: to make of the punishment and repression of illegalities a regular function, coextensive with society; not to punish less, but to punish better' to punish with an attenuated severity perhaps, but in order to punish with more universality and necessity' to insert the power to punish more deeply


Roughly speaking... under the Ancien regime each of the different social strata had its margin of toleerated illegality...

[ 28.3.1757: execution of Damiens (1977 pages 3-6)]

See Anonymous, Pièces originales et procédures du procès, fait è Robert-François Damiens Paris: Pierre Guillaume Simon, 1757.

Discipline & Punish: Part One, Torture. Chapter 1. The Body of the Condemned

On 1 March 1757 Damiens the regicide was condemned "to make the amende honorable before the main door of the Church of Paris"... external link to text

Eighty years later, Léon Faucher drew up his rules "for the House of young prisoners in Paris"

On 1 March 1757 Damiens the regicide was condemned

"to make the amende honorable before the main door of the Church of Paris",
where he was to be
"taken and conveyed in a cart, wearing nothing but a shirt, holding a torch of burning wax weighing two pounds"; then, "in the said cart, to the Place de Grève, where, on a scaffold that will be erected there, the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and claves with red-hot pincers, his right hand, holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide, burnt with sulphur, and, on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds" ( Pièces originales..., 372-4).

"Finally, he was quartered," recounts the Gazette d'Amsterdam of 1 April 1757.

"This last operation was very long, because the horses used were not accustomed to drawing; consequently, instead of four, six were needed; and when that did not suffice, they were forced, in order to cut off the wretch's thighs, to sever the sinews and hack at the joints...

"It is said that, though he was always a great swearer, no blashemy escaped his lips; but the excessive pain made him utter horrible cries, and he often repeated: 'My God, have pity on me! Jesus, help me!' The spectators were all edified by the solicitude of the parish priest of St Paul's who despite his great age did not spare himself in offering consolation to the patient."

Bouton, an officer of the watch, left us his account:
"The sulphur was lit, but the flame was so poor that only the top skin of the hand was burnt, and that only slightly. Then the executioner, his sleeves rolled up, took the steel pincers, which had been especially made for the occasion, and which were about a foot and a half long, and pulled first at the calf of the right leg, then at the thigh, and from there at the two fleshy parts of the right arm; then at the breasts. Though a strong, sturdy fellow, this executioner found it so difficult to tear away the pieces of flesh that he set about the same spot two or three times, twisting the pincers as he did so, and what he took away formed at each part a wound about the size of a six-pound crown piece.

"After these tearings with the pincers, Damiens, who cried out profusely, though without swearing, raised his head and looked at himself; the same executioner dipped an iron spoon in the pot containing the boiling potion, which he poured liberally over each wound. Then the ropes that were to be harnessed to the horses were attached with cords to the patient's body; the horses were then harnessed and placed alongside the arms and legs, one at each limb.

"Monsieur Le Breton, the clerk of the court, went up to the patient several times and asked him if he had anything to say. He said he had not; at each torment, he cried out, as the damned in hell are supposed to cry out, 'Pardon, my God! Pardon, my Lord.' Despite all this pain, he raised his head from time to time and looked at himself boldly. The cords had been tied so tightly by the men who pulled the ends that they caused him indescribable pain. Monsieur le [sic] Breton went up to him again and asked him if he had anything to say; he said no. Several confessors went up to him and spoke to him at length; he willingly kissed the crucifix that was held out to him; he opened his lips and repeated: 'Pardon, Lord.'

"The horses tugged hard, each pulling straight on a limb, each horse held by an executioner. After a quarter of an hour, the same ceremony was repeated and finally, after several attempts, the direction of the horses had to be changed, thus: those at the arms were made to pull towards the head, those at the thighs towards the arms, which broke the arms at the joints. This was repeated several times without success. He raised his head and looked at himself. Two more horses had to be added to those harnessed to the thighs, which made six horses in all. Without success.

"Finally, the executioner, Samson, said to Monsieur Le Breton that there was no way or hope of succeeding, and told him to ask their Lordships if they wished him to have the prisoner cut into pieces. Monsieur Le Breton, who had come down from the town, ordered that renewed efforts be made, and this was done; but the horses gave up and one of those harnessed to the thighs fell to the ground. The confessors returned and spoke to him again. He said to them (I heard him): 'Kiss me, gentlemen.' The parish priest of St Paul's did not dare to, so Monsieur de Marsilly slipped under the rope holding the left arm and kissed him on the forehead. The executioners gathered round and Damiens told them not to swear, to carry out their task and that he did not think ill of them; he begged them to pray to God for him, and asked the parish priest of St Paul's to pray for him at the first mass.

"After two or three attempts, the executioner Samson and he who had used the pincers each drew out a knife from his pocket and cut the body at the thighs instead of severing the legs at the joints; the four horses gave a tug and carried off the two thighs after them, namely, that of the right side first, the other following; then the same was done to the arms, the shoulders, the arm-pits and the four limbs; the flesh had to be cut almost to the bone, the horses pulling hard carried off the right arm first and the other afterwards.

"When the four limbs had been pulled away, the confessors came to speak to him; but his executioner told them that he was dead, though the truth was that I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving from side to side as if he were talking. One of the executioners even said shortly afterwards that when they had lifted the trunk to throw it on the stake, he was still alive. The four limbs were untied from the ropes and thrown on the stake set up in the enclosure in line with the scaffold, then the trunk and the rest were covered with logs and faggots, and fire was put to the straw mixed with this wood.

"...In accordance with the decree, the whole was reduced to ashes. The last piece to be found in the embers was still burning at half-past ten in the evening. The pieces of flesh and the trunk had taken about four hours to burn. The officers of whom I was one, as also was my son, and a detachment of archers remained in the square until nearly eleven o'clock.

"There were those who made something of the fact that a dog had lain the day before on the grass where the fire had been, had been chased away several times, and had always returned. But it is not difficult to understand that an animal found this place warmer than elsewhere" (quoted in Zevaes, 201-14).

Traité des crimes in two volumes by Jean Antoine Soulatges, 1762. Foucault's quotations are from volume one.

Foucault on the origin of criminology - See also below criminology and prison

1977 p.16: If the penality [suffering as a penalty?] in its most severe form no longer addresses itself to the body, in what does it lay hold? The answer of the theoreticians - those who, about 1760, opened up a new period that is not yet at an end - is simple, almost obvious. It seems to be contained in the question itself: since it is not the body, it must be the soul. The expiation that once rained down upon the body must be replaced by a punishment that acts in the depth on the heart, the thoughts, the will, the inclinations. Mably formulated the principle once and for all:

"Punishment, if I may so put it, should strike the soul rather than the body" (Mably, 326)

Gabriel Bonnot de Mably published De la législation; ou principes des lois in Amsterdam in 1776. Two part. French

1977 p.19: During the 150 or 200 years [From 1775-1825 to 1975] that Europe has been setting up its new penal systems, the judges have gradually... taken to judging something other than crimes, namely the 'soul' of the criminal

1977 p.19: Ever since the Middle Ages slowly and painfully built up the great procedure of investigation, to judge was to establish the truth of a crime, it was to determine its author and to apply a legal punishment. Knowledge of the offence, knowledge of the offender, knowledge of the law: these three conditions made it possible to ground a judgment in truth. But now a quite different question of truth is inscribed in the course of the penal judgment. The question is no longer simply: 'Has the act been established and is it punishable?' But also: "What is this act, what is this act of violence or this murder? To what level or to what field of reality does it belong? Is it a phantasy, a psychotic reaction, a delusional episode, a perverse action?' It is no longer simply: 'Who committed it?' But: 'How can we assign the causal process that produced it? Where did it originate in the author himself? Instinct, unconscious, environment, heredity? It is no longer simply: 'What law punishes this offence?' But: "What would be the most appropriate measures to take? How do we see the future development of the offender? What would be the best way of rehabilitating him?' A whole set of assessing, diagnostic, prognostic, normative augments concerning the criminal have become lodged in the framework of penal judgment. Another truth has penetrated the truth that was required by the legal machinery; a truth which, entangled with the first, has turned the assertion of guilt into a strange scientifico-juridical complex.

Foucault continues with the example of the evolution of madness in the French Penal Codes of 1810 and 1832

animality (1967 pages 71 to 76)]

... when the insane were particularly dangerous, they were constrained by a system which was doubtless not of a punitive nature, but simply intended to fix within narrow limits the phsyical locus of a raging frenzy. p.71

Those chained to the cell walls were no longer men whose minds had wandered, but beasts preyed upon by a natural frenzy ...

This model of animality prevailed in the asylums and gave them their cagelike aspect, their look of the menagerie. p.72

The negative fact that "the madman is not treated as a human being" has a very positive content ... p.73

Madness discloses a secret of animality which is p.75 its own truth. p.76

madness is ... alienated in something which is no less than its own truth. p.76

[ 1789: justice under the revolution (1977 p.73)]

"Let penalties be regulated and proportional to the offenses, let the death sentence be passed only on those convicted of murder, and let tortures that revolt humanity be abolished"
Thus, in 1789, the chancellery summed up the general position of the petitions addressed to the authorities concerning tortures and executions (cf. Seligman, and Desjardin, 13-20)

a double mode
binary division and branding: mad/sane; dangerous/harmless; normal/abnormal - plus
coercive assignment of differential distribution [ (1977 p.199)]

Generally speaking, all the authorities exercising individual control function according to a double mode; that of binary division and branding (mad/sane; dangerous/harmless; normal/abnormal); and that of coercive assignment of differential distribution (who he is; where he must be; how he is to be characterised; how he is to be recognised; how a constant surveillance is to be exercised over him in an individual way, etc.). ...

The constant division between the normal and the abnormal, to which every individual is subjected, brings us back to our own time, by applying the binary branding and exile of the leper to quite different objects; the existence of a whole set of techniques and institutions for measuring, supervising and correcting the abnormal brings into play the disciplinary mechanisms to which the fear of the plague gave rise. All the mechanisms of power which, even today, are disposed around the abnormal individual, to brand him and to alter him, are composed of those two forms from which they distantly derive.

Bentham's Panopticon is the architectural figure of this composition

1791 Panopticon; or, the Inspection-House: containing the idea of a new principle of construction applicable to any sort of establishment, in which persons of any description are to be kept under inspection; and in particular to penitentiary-houses, prisons, houses of industry, work-houses, poor-houses, lazarettos, manufactories, hospitals, mad-houses, and schools: with a plan of management adapted to the principle: in a series of letters, written in the year 1787, from Crecheff in White Russia. To a friend in England by Jeremy Bentham, of Lincoln's Inn, esquire. Published in 1791 by T. Payne: in London, 1791 and Thomas Byrne in Dublin.

[1791: Bentham's Panopticon (1977 p.200)]

Bentham's Panopticon is the architectural figure of this composition. We know the principle on which it was based: at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy. By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualised and constantly visible. The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognise immediately. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions - to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide - it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two. Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.

To begin with, this made it possible - as a negative effect - to avoid those compact, swarming, howling masses that were to be found in places of confinement, those painted by Goya or described by Howard. Each individual, in his place, is securely confined to a cell from which he is seen from the front by the supervisor; but the side walls prevent him from coming into contact with his companions. He is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication. The arrangement of his room, opposite the central tower, imposes on him an axial visibility; but the divisions of the ring, those separated cells, imply a lateral invisibility. And this invisibility is a guarantee of order. If the inmates are convicts, there is no danger of a plot, an attempt at : collective escape, the planning of new crimes for the future, bad reciprocal influences; if they are patients, there is no danger of [1977 p.201] contagion; if they are madmen there is no risk of their committing violence upon one another; if they are schoolchildren, there is no copying, no noise, no chatter, no waste of time; if they are workers, there are no disorders, no theft, no coalitions, none of those distractions that slow down the rate of work, make it less perfect or cause accidents. The crowd, a compact mass, a locus of multiple exchanges, individualities merging together, a collective effect, is abolished and replaced by a collection of separated individualities. From the point of view of the guardian, it is replaced by a multiplicity that can be numbered and supervised; from the point of view of the inmates, by a sequestered and observed solitude (Bentham, 60-64).

Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers. To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector: too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed; too much, because he has no need in fact of being so. In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only Venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings; for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian. The Panopticon is a [1977 p.202] machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.

[1977 p.203]
So much for the question of observation. But the Panopticon was also a laboratory; it could be used as a machine to carry out experiments, to alter behaviour, to train or correct individuals. To experiment with medicines and monitor their effects. To try out different punishments on prisoners, according to their crimes and character, and to seek the most effective ones.

[1977 p.204]
The Panopticon is a privileged place for experiments on men, and for analysing with complete certainty the transformations that may be obtained from them. The Panopticon may even provide an apparatus for supervising its own mechanisms. In this central tower, the director may spy on all the employees that he has under his orders: nurses, doctors, foremen, teachers, warders; he will be able to judge them continuously, alter their behaviour, impose upon them the methods he thinks best; and it will even be possible to observe the director himself. An inspector arriving unexpectedly at the centre of the Panopticon will be able to judge at a glance, without anything being concealed from him, how the entire establishment is functioning.


The Panopticon functions as a kind of laboratory of power. Thanks to its mechanisms of observation, it gains in efficiency and in the ability to penetrate into men's behaviour; knowledge follows the advances of power, discovering new objects of knowledge over all the surfaces on which power is exercised.

[1977 p.205]

The plague-stricken town, the panoptic establishment - the differences are important. They mark, at a distance of a century and a half, the transformations of the disciplinary programme. In the first case, there is an exceptional situation: against an extraordinary evil, power is mobilized; it makes itself everywhere present and visible; it invents new mechanisms; it separates, it immobilizes, it partitions constructs for a time what is both a counter-city and the perfect society; it imposes an ideal functioning, but one that is reduced, in the final analysis, like the evil that it combats, to a simple dualism of life and death: that which moves brings death, and one kills that which moves

The Panopticon, on the other hand, must be understood as a generalisable model of functioning; a way of defining power relations in terms of the everyday life of men. No doubt Bentham presents it as a particular institution, closed in upon itself. Utopias, perfectly closed in upon themselves, are common enough. As opposed to the ruined prisons, littered with mechanisms of torture, to be seen in Piranese's engravings, the Panopticon presents a cruel, ingenious cage. The fact that it should have given rise, even in our own time, to so many variations, projected or realised, is evidence of the imaginary intensity that it has possessed for almost two hundred years. But the Panopticon must not be understood as a dream building: it is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form; its functioning, abstracted from any obstacle, resistance or friction, must be represented as a pure architectural and optical system: it is in fact a figure of political technology that may and must be detached from any specific use.

It is polyvalent in its applications; it serves to reform prisoners, but also to treat patients, to instruct schoolchildren, to confine the insane, to supervise workers, to put beggars and idlers to work. It is a type of location of bodies in space, of distribution of individuals in relation to one another, of hierarchical organisation, of disposition of centres and channels of power, of definition of the instruments and modes of intervention of power, which can be implemented in hospitals, workshops, schools, prisons. Whenever one is dealing with a multiplicity of individuals on whom a task or a particular form of behaviour must be imposed, the panoptic schema may be used. It is - necessary modifications apart - applicable

"to all establishments whatsoever, in which, within a space not too large [ 1977 p.206] to be covered or commanded by buildings, a number of persons are meant to be kept under inspection" (Bentham, 40;

although Bentham takes the penitentiary house as his prime example, it is because it has many different functions to fulfil - safe custody, confinement, solitude, forced labour and instruction).

In each of its applications, it makes it possible to perfect the exercise of power. It does this in several ways: because it can reduce the number of those who exercise it, while increasing the number of those on whom it is exercised. Because it is possible to intervene at any moment and because the constant pressure acts even before the offences, mistakes or crimes have been committed. Because, in these conditions, its strength is that it never intervenes, it is exercised spontaneously and without noise, it constitutes a mechanism whose effects follow from one another. Because, without any physical instrument other than architecture and geometry, it acts directly on individuals; it gives "power of mind over mind". The panoptic schema makes any apparatus of power more intense: it assures its economy (in material, in personnel, in time); it assures its efficacity by its preventative character, its continuous functioning and its automatic mechanisms. It is a way of obtaining from power

"in hitherto unexampled quantity", "a great and new instrument of government . . .; its great excellence consists in the great strength it is capable of giving to any institution it may be thought proper to apply it to" (Bentham, 66).

It's a case of 'it's easy once you've thought of it' in the political sphere. It can in fact be integrated into any function (education, medical treatment, production, punishment); it can increase the effect of this function, by being linked closely with it; it can constitute a mixed mechanism in which relations of power (and of knowledge) may be precisely adjusted, in the smallest detail, to the processes that are to be supervised; it can establish a direct proportion between 'surplus power' and 'surplus production'. In short, it arranges things in such a way that the exercise of power is not added on from the outside, like a rigid, heavy constraint, to the functions it invests, but is so subtly present in them as to increase their efficiency by itself increasing its own points of contact. The panoptic mechanism is not simply a hinge, a point of exchange between a mechanism of power and a function; it is a way of making [1977 p.207] power relations function in a function, and of making a function function through these power relations. Bentham's Preface to Panopticon opens with a list of the benefits to be obtained from his 'inspection-house':

" Morals reformed - health preserved - industry invigorated - instruction diffused -public burthens lightened - Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock - the gordian knot of the Poor-Laws not cut, but untied - all by a simple idea in architecture! " (Bentham, 39)

Furthermore, the arrangement of this machine is such that its enclosed nature does not preclude a permanent presence from the outside: we have seen that anyone may come and exercise in the central tower the functions of surveillance, and that, this being the case, he can gain a clear idea of the way in which the surveillance is practised. In fact, any panoptic institution, even if it is as rigorously closed as a penitentiary, may without difficulty be subjected to such irregular and constant inspections: and not only by the appointed inspectors, but also by the public; any member of society will have the right to come and see with his own eyes how the schools, hospitals, factories, prisons function. There is no risk, therefore, that the increase of power created by the panoptic machine may degenerate into tyranny; he disciplinary mechanism will be democratically controlled, since it will be constantly accessible 'to the great tribunal committee of the world'. This Panopticon, subtly arranged so that an observer may observe, at a glance, so many different individuals, also enables everyone to come and observe any of the observers. The seeing machine was once a sort of dark room into which individuals spied; it has become a transparent building in which the exercise of power may be supervised by society as a whole.

The panoptic schema, without disappearing as such or losing any of its properties, was destined to spread throughout the social body; its vocation was to become a generalised function. The plague-stricken town provided an exceptional disciplinary model: perfect, but absolutely violent; to the disease that brought death, power opposed its perpetual threat of death; life inside it was reduced to its simplest expression; it was, against the power of death, the meticulous exercise of the right of the sword. The Panopticon, on the other hand, has a role of amplification; although it arranges power, although it is intended to make it more economic and more effective, [ 1977 p.208] it does so not for power itself, nor for the immediate salvation of a threatened society: its aim is to strengthen the social forces - to increase production, to develop the economy, spread education, raise the level of public morality; to increase and multiply.

1796: William Tuke's Retreat (1967 p.241)]

We know the images. They are familiar in all histories of psychiatry, where their function is to illustrate that happy age when madness was finally recognised and treated according to a truth to which we had long remained blind

Foucault, here, quotes from Gasper Charles de la Rive (MD Edinburgh, ) who visited The Retreat in 1798. DeLaRive was a political refugee from Switzerland and he published an account of his visit as Lettre addressée aux Rédacteurs de la Bibliotheèque Britannique sur un nouvel établishment pour la guerison des Aliénés (1798) Par Dr Delarive. Geneva.

"The worthy Society of Friends... sought to assure those of its member who might have the misfortune to lose their reason without a sufficient fortune to resort to expensive establishments all the resources of medicine and all the comforts of life compatible with their state; a voluntary subscription furnished the funds, and for the last few years, an establishment that seems to unite many advantages with all possible economy has been founded near the city of York. If the soul momentarily quails at the sight of that dread disease which seems created to humiliate human reason, it subsequently experiences gentler emotions when it considers all that an ingenious benevolence has been able to invent for its care and cure.

This house is situated a mile from York, in the midst of a fertile and smiling countryside, it is not at all the idea of a prison that it suggests, but rather that of a large farm, it is surrounded by a great, walled garden. No bars, no grilles on the windows"

The main part of Foucault's description of the Retreat is based on Samuel Tukes' 1813 Description of the Retreat

The Tukes were hard workers in what is known as Quaker Discipline. The extracts from Description of the Retreat could be read alongside the extracts from the 1834 Rules of Discipline, in whose construction Samuel Tuke was a leader.

Tuke's gesture... is regarded as an act of liberation. The truth was quite different... The Retreat would serve as an instrument of segregation: a moral and religious segregation which sought to reconstruct around madness a milieu as much as possible like that of the community of Quakers.

"... there has also been particular occasion to observe the great loss, which individuals of our society have sustained, by being put under the care of those who are not only strangers to our principles, but by whom they are frequently mixed with other patients, who may indulge themselves in ill language, and other exceptionable practices. This often seems to leave an unprofitable effect upon the patients' minds after they are restored to the use of their reason, alienating them from those religious attachments which they had before experienced; and sometimes, even corrupting them with vicious habits to which they had been strangers."

"It was thought, very justly, that the indiscriminate mixture, which must occur in large establishments, of persons of opposite religious sentiments and practices; of the profligate and the virtuous; the profane and the serious; was calculated to check the progress of returning reason, and to fix, still deeper, the melancholy and misanthropic train of ideas..."

[Religion's precepts] "where these have been strongly imbued in early life... become little less than principles of our nature, and their restraining power is frequently felt, even under the delirious power of insanity. To encourage the influence of religious principles over the mind of the insane is considered of great consequence, as a means of cure."

In the dialectic of insanity where reason hides without abolishing itself, religion constitutes the concrete form of what cannot go mad ... the constant solicitation of a milieu

"where, during lucid intervals, or the state of convalescence, the patient might enjoy the society of those who were of similar habits and opinions"

"The principle of fear, which is rarely decreased by insanity, is considered of great importance in the management of the patients." [Passage continues, not quoted by Foucault:] "But it is not allowed to be excited, beyond that degree which naturally arises from the necessary regulations of the family. Neither chains nor corporal punishment are tolerated, on any pretext, in this establishment".

[A further quote on fear, not quoted by Foucault:] "In an early part of this chapter, it is stated, that the patients are considered capable of rational and honourable inducement; and though we allowed fear a considerable place in the production of that restraint, which the patient generally exerts on his entrance into the new situation; yet the desire of esteem is considered, at the Retreat, as operating, in general, still more powerfully"

We see that at the Retreat the partial suppression of physical constraint was part of a system whose essential element was the construction of a "self-restraint" in which the patient's freedom, engaged by work and the observation of others, was ceaselessly threatened by the recognition of guilt. Instead of submitting to a simple negative operation that loosened bonds and delivered one's deepest nature from madness, it must be recognised that one was in the grip of a positive operation that confined madness in a system of rewards and punishments, and included it in the movement of moral consciousness. A passage from a world of Censure to a universe of Judgement. But thereby a psychology of madness becomes possible...

The science of mental disease, as it would develop in the asylum, would always be only of the order of observation and classification. It would not be a dialogue. It could not be that until psychoanalysis had exorcised this phenomenon of observation, essential to the nineteenth-century asylum, and substituted for its silent magic the powers of language.

Surveillance and Judgment: already the outline appears of a new personage who will be essential in the nineteenth century asylum. Tuke himself suggests this personage, when he tells the story of a maniac subject to seizures of irrepressible violence. One day while he was walking in the garden of the asylum with the keeper, this patient suddenly entered a phase of excitation, moved several steps away, picked up a large stone, and made the gesture of throwing it at his companion. The keeper stopped, looked the patient in the eyes; then advanced several steps towards him and

""in a resolute tone of voice ... commanded him to lay down the stone".
As he approached the patient lowered his hand, then dropped his weapon.

"he then submitted to be quietly led to his apartment"

Something had been born, which was no longer repression, but authority.


[ (1977 p.231)]

It would not be true to say that the prison was born with the new codes. The prison form antedates its systematic use in the penal system. It had already been constituted outside the legal apparatus when, throughout the social body, procedures were being elaborated for distributing individuals, fixing them in space, classifying them, extracting from them the maximum in time and forces, training their bodies, coding their continuous behaviour, maintaining them in prefect visibility, forming around them an apparatus of observation registration and recording, constituting on them a body of knowledge that is accumulated and centralised.

The general form an apparatus intended to render individuals docile and useful, by means of precise work upon their bodies, indicated the prison institution, before the law ever defined it as the penalty par excellence.

At the turn of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was a penality of detention and it was ... a new thing. But it was really the opening up of penality to mechanisms of coercion already elaborated elsewhere. The models of penal detention - Ghent - Gloucester - Walnut Street - marked the first visible point of this transition, rather than innovation or points of departure.

[ (1977 p.19)]

A significant fact is the way in which the question of madness has evolved in penal practice. According to the 1810 code, madness was dealt with only in terms of article 64. Now this article states that there is neither crime nor offence if the offender was of unsound mind at the time of the act. The possibility of ascertaining madness was, therefore, a quite separate matter from the definition of an act as a crime; the gravity of the act was not [20] altered by the fact that its author was insane, nor the punishment reduced as a consequence; the crime itself disappeared. It was impossible, therefore, to declare that someone was both guilty and mad; once the diagnosis of madness had been accepted, it could not be included in the judgment; it interrupted the procedure and loosened the hold of the law on the author of the act. Not only the examination of the criminal suspected of insanity, but the very effects of this examination had to he external and anterior to the sentence. But, very soon, the courts of the nineteenth century began to misunderstand the meaning of article 64. Despite several decisions of the supreme court of appeal confirming that insanity could not result either in a light penalty, or even in an acquittal, but required that the case be dismissed, the ordinary courts continued to bring the question of insanity to bear on their verdicts. They accepted that one could be both guilty and mad; less guilty the madder one was; guilty certainly, but someone to be put away and treated rather than punished; not only a guilty man, but also dangerous, since quite obviously sick etc. From the point of view of the penal code, the result was a mass of juridical absurdities. But this was the starting point of an evolution that jurisprudence and legislation itself was to precipitate in the course of the next 100 years: already the reform of 1832, introducing attenuating circumstances, made it possible to modify the sentence according to the supposed degrees of an illness or the forms of a semi-insanity. And the practice of calling on psychiatric expertise, which is widespread in the assize courts and sometimes extended to courts of summary jurisdiction, means that the sentence, even if it is always formulated in terms of legal punishment; implies, more or less obscurely, judgements of normality, attributions of causality, assessments of possible changes, anticipations as to the offender's future.


Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville Note sur le syste`me pénitentiaire et sur la mission confiée par M. le ministre de l'Intérieur MM. Gustave de Beaumont et A. de Tocqueville, Paris, Imprimerie de H. Fournier, 1831, 48 pages

1833 Gustave de Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville, On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France, Du système pénitentiaire aux états-Unis, et de son application en France; suivi d'un appendice sur les colonies pénales et de notes statistiques. Paris, H. Fournier. June 1833. [Foucault references the 1845 edition]

1836: An article by Karl Joseph Anton Mittermaier in Revue Etrangere et Francaise de Legislation de Jursiprudence et D'economie Politique is quoted by Foucult (1977, p.238), who says:

The advantage of the Auburnian system, according to its advocates, was that it formed a duplication of society itself. Constraint was assured by material means, but above all by a rule that one had to learn to respect and which was guaranteed by surveillance and punishment. Rather than keep the convicts"under lock and key like wild beasts in cages", they must be brought together

"made to join together in useful exercises, forced together to adopt good habits, preventing moral contagion by active surveillance, maintaining reflection by the rule of silence"

This rule accustoms the convict

"to regard the law as a sacred precept whose violation brings just and legitimate harm"

June 1836 (Alphonse) Thomas Bérenger Rapport a l'Academie des sciences morales quoted by Foucault 1997, p.242 "By occupying the convict, one gives him habits of order and obedience; one makes the idler that he was diligent and active... with time, he finds in the regular movement of the prison, in the manual labours to which he is subjected... a certain remedy against the wanderings of his imagination."

1838: Faucher (1977 pp 6-7)

Léon Faucher De la réforme des prisons.

Articles from Faucher's rules "for the House of young prisoners in Paris" quoted by Foucault - in contrast to torture

Art. 17. The prisoners' day will begin at six in the morning in winter and at five in summer. They will work for nine hours a day throughout the year. Two hours a day will be devoted to instruction. Work and the day will end at nine o'clock in winter and at eight in summer.

Art. 18. Rising. At the first drum-roll, the prisoners must rise and dress in silence, as the supervisor opens the cell doors. At the second drum- roll, they must be dressed and make their beds. At the third, they must line up and proceed to the chapel for morning prayer. There is a five- minute interval between each drum-roll.

Art. 19. The prayers are conducted by the chaplain and followed by a moral or religious reading. This exercise must not last more than half an hour.

Art. 20. Work. At a quarter to six in the summer, a quarter to seven in winter, the prisoners go down into the courtyard where they must wash their hands and faces, and receive their first ration of bread. Immediately afterwards, they form into work-teams and go off to work, which must begin at six in summer and seven in winter.

Art. 21. Meal. At ten o'clock the prisoners leave their work and go to the refectory; they wash their hands in their courtyards and assemble in divisions. After the dinner, there is recreation until twenty minutes to eleven.

Art. 22. School. At twenty minutes to eleven, at the drum-roll, the prisoners form into ranks, and proceed in divisions to the school. The class lasts two hours and consists alternately of reading, writing, drawing and arithmetic.

Art. 23. At twenty minutes to one, the prisoners leave the school, in divisions, and return to their courtyards for recreation. At five minutes to one, at the drum-roll, they form into workteams.

Art. 24. At one o'clock they must be back in the workshops: they work until four o'clock.

Art. 25. At four o'clock the prisoners leave their workshops and go into the courtyards where they wash their hands and form into divisions for the refectory.

Art. 26. Supper and the recreation that follows it last until five o'clock: the prisoners then return to the workshops.

Art. 27. At seven o'clock in the summer, at eight in winter, work stops; bread is distributed for the last time in the workshops. For a quarter of an hour one of the prisoners or supervisors reads a passage from some instructive or uplifting work. This is followed by evening prayer.

Art. 28. At half-past seven in summer, half-past eight in winter, the prisoners must be back in their cells after the washing of hands and the inspection of clothes in the courtyard; at the first drum-roll, they must undress, and at the second get into bed. The cell doors are closed and the supervisors go the rounds in the corridors, to ensure order and silence"

We have, then, a public execution and a time-table. They do not punish the same crimes or the same type of delinquent. But they each define a certain penal style. Less than a century separates them. It was a time when, in Europe and in the United States, the entire economy of punishment was redistributed. It was a time of great "scandals" for traditional justice, a time of innumerable projects for reform. It saw a new theory of law and crime, a new moral or political justification of the right to punish; old laws were abolished, old customs died out. "Modern" codes were planned or drawn up: Russia, 1769; Prussia, 1780; Pennsylvania and Tuscany, 1786; Austria, 1788; France, 1791, Year IV, 1808 and 1810. It was a new age for penal justice.

Among so many changes, I shall consider one: the disappearance of torture as a public spectacle. Today we are rather inclined to ignore it; perhaps, in its time, it gave rise to too much inflated rhetoric; perhaps it has been attributed too readily and too emphatically to a process of "humanization", thus dispensing with the need for further analysis. And, in any case, how important is such a change, when compared with the great institutional transformations, the formulation of explicit, general codes and unified rules of procedure; with the almost universal adoption of the jury system, the definition of the essentially corrective character of the penalty and the tendency, which has become increasingly marked since the nineteenth century, to adapt punishment to the individual offender? Punishment of a less immediately physical kind, a certain discretion in the art of inflicting pain, a combination of more subtle, more subdued sufferings, deprived of their visible display, should not all this be treated as a special case, an incidental effect of deeper changes? And yet the fact remains that a few decades saw the disappearance of the tortured, dismembered, amputated body, symbolically branded on face or shoulder, exposed alive or dead to public view. The body as the major target of penal repression disappeared.

10.5.1839: Order on the running of the maisons centrales prescribed 1. Silence. 2. Any necessary communication by convicts to officers to be in a low voice. 3. Convicts to have no money on them. 4. Spending of earnings to be regulated by officers. 5. Alcohol prohibited. 6. Quantity and type of food controlled. 7. Tobacco prohibited. 8. Work required. 9. Convicts to be punished for breaking the rules. [Signed by Gasparin]

Foucault says that the Auburn system was the inspirartion for these regulations. The Pennsylvanian (Philadelphia) scheme was adopted in 1844. "But the second penitentiary congress in 1847 opted against this method". (1977 p.318)

[1840: Mettray (1977 p.293)]

La colonie penitentiaire agricole de Mettray
[The penitential agricultural colony (for boys) at Mettray, near Tours, France (map)]

Were I to fix the date of completion of the carceral system, I would chose not 1810 and the [French] penal code, nor even 1844, when the law laying down the principle of cellular internment was passed, I might not even choose 1838, when books on prison reform by Charles Lucas, Moreau-Christophe and Faucher were published. The date I would chose would be 22 january 1840, the date of the official opening of Mettray

Why Mettray? Because it is the disciplinary form at its most extreme, the model in which are concentrated all the coercive technologies of behaviour. In it were to be found "cloister, prison, school, regiment."

The small, highly hierarchized groups, into which the inmates were divided, followed simultaneously five models: that of the family (each group was a "family" composed of "brothers" and two "elder brothers"); that of the army (each family, commanded by a head, was divided into two sections, each of which had a second in command; each inmate had a number and was taught basic military exercises; there was a cleanliness inspection every day, an inspection of clothing every week; a roll-call was taken three times a day); that of the workshop, with supervisors and foremen, who were responsible for the regularity of the work and for the apprenticeship of the younger inmates; that of the school (an hour or an hour and a half of lessons every day; the teaching was given by the instructor and by the deputyheads); lastly, the judicial model (each day "justice" was meted out in the parlour:

"The least act of disobedience is punished and the best way of avoiding serious offences is to punish the most minor offences very severely: at Mettray, a useless word is punishable";

the principal punishment inflicted was confinement to one's cell; for "isolation is the best means of acting on the moral nature of children; it is there above all that the voice of religion, even if it has never spoken to their hearts, recovers all its emotional power"; the entire parapenal institution, which is created in order not to be a prison, culminates in the cell, on the walls of which are written in black letters: "God sees you."

This superimposition of different models makes it possible to indicate, in its specific features, the function of "training." The chiefs and their deputies at Mettray had to be not exactly judges, or teachers, or foremen, or noncommissioned officers, or "parents," but something of all these things in a quite specific mode of intervention.

They were in a sense technicians of behaviour; engineers of conduct, orthopaedists of individuality. Their task was to produce bodies that were both docile and capable; they supervised the nine or ten working hours of every day (whether in a workshop or in the fields); they directed the orderly movements of groups of inmates, physical exercises, military exercises, rising in the morning, going to bed at night, walks to the accompaniment of bugle and whistle; they taught gymnastics;' they checked cleanliness, supervised bathing.

Training was accompanied by permanent observation; a body of knowledge was being constantly built up from the everyday behaviour of the inmates; it was organized as an instrument of perpetual assessment:

"On entering the colony, the child is subjected to a sort of interrogation as to his origins, the position of his family, the offence for which he was brought before the courts and all the other offences that make up his short and often very sad existence. This information is written down on a board on which everything concerning each inmate is noted in turn, his stay at the colony and the place to which he is sent when he leaves."

The modelling of the body produces a knowledge of the individual, the apprenticeship of the techniques induces modes of behaviour and the acquisition of skills is inextricably linked with the establishment of power relations; strong, skilled agricultural workers are produced; in this very work, provided it is technically supervised, submissive subjects are produced and a dependable body of knowledge built up about them. This disciplinary technique exercised upon the body had a double effect: a "soul" to be known and a subjection to be maintained.

One result vindicated this work of training: in 1848, at a moment when

"the fever of revolution fired the imagination of all, when the schools at Angers, La Fleche, Alfort, even the boarding schools, rose up in rebellion, the inmates of Mettray were calmer than ever" (Ferrus).

Where Mettray was especially exemplary was in the specificity that it recognized in this operation of training. It was related to other forms of supervision, on which it was based: medicine, general education, religious direction. But it cannot be identified absolutely with them. Nor with administration in the strict sense. Heads or deputy-heads of "families," monitors and foremen, had to live in close proximity to the inmates; their clothes were "almost as humble" as those of the inmates themselves; they practically never left their side, observing them day and night; they constituted among them a network of permanent observation. And, in order to train them themselves, a specialized school had been organized in the colony. The essential element of its programme was to subject the future cadres to the same apprenticeships and to the' same coercions as the inmates themselves: they were

"subjected as pupils to the discipline that, later, as instructors, they would themselves impose."

They were taught the art of power relations. It was the first training college in pure discipline: the "penitentiary" was not simply a project that sought its justification in "humanity" or its foundations in a "science," but a technique that was learnt, transmitted and which obeyed general norms. The practice that normalized by compulsion the conduct of the undisciplined or dangerous could, in turn, by technical elaboration and rational reflection, be "normalized." The disciplinary technique became a "discipline" which also had its school.

It so happens that historians of the human sciences date the birth of scientific psychology at this time: during these same years, it seems, Weber was manipulating his little compass for the measurement of sensations. What took place at Mettray (and in other European countries sooner or later) was obviously of a quite different order. It was the emergence or rather the institutional specification, the baptism as it were, of a new type of supervision-both knowledge and power--over individuals who resisted disciplinary normalization. And yet, in the formation and growth of psychology, the appearance of these professionals of discipline, normality and subjection surely marks the beginning of a new stage. It will be said that the quantitative assessment of sensorial responses could at least derive authority from the prestige of the emerging science of physiology and that for this alone it deserves to feature in the history of the sciences.

But the supervision of normality was firmly encased in a medicine or a psychiatry that provided it with a sort of "scientificity"; it was supported by a judicial apparatus which, directly or indirectly, gave it legal justification.

Thus, in the shelter of these two considerable protectors, and, indeed, acting as a link between them, or a place of exchange, a carefully worked out technique for the supervision of norms has continued to develop right up to the present day. The specific, institutional supports of these methods have proliferated since the founding of the small school at Mettray; their apparatuses have increased in quantity and scope; their auxiliary services have increased, with hospitals, schools, public administrations and private enterprises; their agents have proliferated in number, in power, in technical qualification; the technicians of indiscipline have founded a family. In the normalization of the power of normalization, in the arrangement of a powerknowledge over individuals, Mettray and its school marked a new era.

But why choose this moment as the point of emergence of the formation of an art of punishing that is still more or less our own? Precisely because this choice is somewhat "unjust." Because it situates the "end" of the process in the lower reaches of criminal law. Because Mettray was a prison, but not entirely; a prison in that it contained young delinquents condemned by the courts; and yet something else, too, because it also contained minors who had been charged, but acquitted under article 66 of the code, and boarders held, as in the eighteenth century, as an alternative to paternal correction. Mettray, a punitive model, is at the limit of strict penality. It was the most famous of a whole series of institutions which, well beyond the frontiers of criminal law, constituted what one might call the carceral archipelago.

Yet the general principles, the great codes and subsequent legislation were quite clear on ,the matter: no imprisonment "outside the law," no detention that had not been decided by a qualified judicial institution, no more of those arbitrary and yet widespread confinements. Yet the very principle of extra-penal incarceration was in fact never abandoned.

1840 Projet de pénitencier par Harou-Romain, Architect du Départment du Calvados et de la Maison Centrale de Beaulieu.
Caen: Imprimeriere Lesaulnier, Rue Écuyére, 42. 1840. 52 pages. Bibliothèque nationale de France http://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb30577553b

[Architect son of Normandy architect Jean-Baptiste-Harou Roman, who died January 1822. May have been known as both Nicolas-Philippe Harou and Romain Harou-Romain. He succeeded his father as county architect


View from inside an individual cell towards the tower at the centre


Ducatal Instruction pour la construction des maisons d'arrée.

December 1841: Le Journal des économistes started in France as a journal of liberal opinion. Foucault quotes from volume two (1842) a description of the Philadelphia system. Foucault says (1977 p. 238):

"In absolute isolation - as at Philadelphia - the rehabilitation of the criminal is expected not of the application of the common law, but in the relation of the individual to his own conscience and what may enlighten him from within

"Alone in his cell, the convict is handed over to himself; in the silence of his passions and of all world that surrounds him, he descends in to his conscience, he questions it and feels awakening within him the moral feeling that never entirely perishes in the heart of man."

It is not, therefore, an external respect for the law or fear of punishment alone that will act upon the convict but the workings of the conscience itself"

In explanation of the Quaker religious background to this, Foucault quotes George Fox saying "every man is illuminated by the divine light and I have seen it shine through every man"


by Henry François Auguste Bonnet and Jules-Amédée Bulard Rapport médico-légal sur l'etat mental de Charles-Joseph Jouy, inculpé d'attentats aux moeurs [Medical-legal report on the mental state of Charles-Joseph Jouy, charged with an outrage to morals - a sexual crime, rape or indecent exposure] (Nancy, 1868). Bonnet and Bulard were senior doctors at the asylum (asile) at Maréville [l'asile de Maréville à Laxou dans le département de la Meurthe] - Bulard was a student of Benedict Augustin Morel

Charles Joseph Jouy and Sophie Adam, September and October 1867

Un jour de 1867 , un ouvrier agricole, du village de Lapcourt, un peu simple d'esprit, employé selon les saisons chez les uns ou les autres, nourri ici et là par un peu de charité et pour le pire travail, logé dans les granges ou les écuries, est dénoncé: au bord d'un champ, il avait, d'une petite file, obtenu quelques caresses, comme il l'avait déj à fait, comme il l'avait vu faire, comme le faisaient autour de lui les gamin s du village ; c'est qu'à la lisière du bois, ou dans le fossé de la route qui mène à Saint-Nicolas, on jouait familièrement au jeu qu'on appelait du lait caillé

One day in 1867, a farmhand from the village of Lapcourt, who was somewhat simple-minded, employed here then there, depending on the season, living hand-to-mouth from a little charity or in exchange for the worst sort of labour, sleeping in barns and stables, was turned in to the authorities.

At the border of a field, he had obtained a few caresses from a little girl, just as he had done before and seen done by the village urchins round about him; for, at the edge of the wood, or in the ditch by the road leading to Saint-Nicolas, they would play the familiar game called "curdled milk."

So he was pointed out by the girl's parents to the mayor of the village, reported by the mayor to the gendarmes, led by the gendarmes to the judge, who indicted him and turned him over first to a doctor, then to two other experts who not only wrote their report but also had it published.

What is the significant thing about this story? The pettiness of it all; the fact that this everyday occurrence in the life of village sexuality, these inconsequential bucolic pleasures, could become, from a certain time, the object not only of a collective intolerance but of a judicial action, a medical intervention, a careful clinical examination, and an entire theoretical elaboration.

The thing to note is that they went so far as to measure the brainpan, study the facial bone structure, and inspect for possible signs of degenerescence the anatomy of this personage who up to that moment had been an integral part of village life; that they made him talk; that they questioned him concerning his thoughts, inclinations, habits, sensations, and opinions. And then, acquitting him of any crime, they decided finally to make him into a pure object of medicine and knowledge - an object to be shut away till the end of his life in the hospital at Mareville, but also one to be made known to the world of learning through a detailed analysis.

One can be fairly certain that during this same period the Lapcourt schoolmaster was instructing the little villagers to mind their language and not talk about all these things aloud. But this was undoubtedly one of the conditions enabling the institutions of knowledge and power to overlay this everyday bit of theater with their solemn discourse.

So it was that our society - and it was doubtless the first in history to take such measures - assembled around these timeless gestures, these barely furtive pleasures between simple-minded adults and alert children, a whole machinery for speechifying, analyzing, and investigating.

... this village halfwit who would give a few pennies to the little girls for favours the older ones refused him,

... sex became something to say, and to say exhaustively in accordance with deployments that were varied, but all, in their own way, compelling.

I began by promising a genealogy of the abnormal individual on the basis of three characters: the great monster, the little masturbator, and the recalcitrant child. The third figure is missing from my genealogy andI hope you will forgive me for this. You will see its outline appear in todays exposition. I have not had time for its genealogy, so we leave it in outline. By looking at a particular case, today I want to show the quite precisely compound and mixed figure of the monster, the little masturbator, and, at the same time, the recalcitrant individual, or anyway,the individual who cannot be integrated within the normative system of education. The case is from 1867 and you will see that it is extremely banal. However, if this case does not enable us to mark the exact date of birth of the figure of the abnormal as an individual who can be psychiatrized, at least it indicates roughly the period in which and the way in which the figure of the abnormal individual was psychiatrized. Quite simply it is the case of an agricultural worker of the Nancy region who, in the months of September and October in 1867, was denounced to the mayor of his village by the parents of a little girl he had almost, partly, or more or less raped. He is charged. He undergoes a first psychiatric examination by a local doctor and is then sent to Mareville, which was and still is, I believe, the major asylum for the Nancy region. Here, over several weeks, he undergoes a thorough psychiatric examination by two psychiatrists, at least one of whom, Bonnet, was a prominent figure. What does this individuals file reveal? He was about forty years old at the time of the events. He was an illegitimate child and his mother died when he was still very young. He lived as best he could, a bit on the margins of the village, poorly educated, a bit drunk, solitary and badly paid. In short, he is more or less the village idiot. And I assure you that it is not my fault that this character is called Jouy. The questioning of the little girl reveals that Charles Jouy first got her to masturbate him in the fields. [À vrai dire, la petite fille, Sophie Adam, et Charles Jouy n'étaient pas seuls. À cûté d'eux, il y avait une autre petite fille qui regardait, mais qui a...] In fact, Charles Jouy and the little girl, Sophie Adam, were not alone. There was another young girl who watched them, but when her young friend asked her to take over she refused. Afterward, they recounted what had happened to a peasant who was returning from the fields, boasting of having, as they said, made maton, the local dialect word for curdled milk, with Jouy. The peasant seems not to have worried about it further, and it is only a bit later, the day of the village festival, that Jouy dragged young Sophie Adam (unless it was Sophie Adam who dragged Charles Jouy) into the ditch alongside the road to Nancy. There, something happened: almost rape, perhaps. Anyway, Jouy very decently gives four sous to the little girl who immediately runs to the fair to buy some roasted almonds. She says nothing to her parents, of course, for fear, she says later, of getting a couple of slaps. It is only some days later that the mother, when washing the little girls clothes, suspects what happened. The fact that legal psychiatry took responsibility for a case like this - that it sought in the depths of the countryside for someone accused of an offense against public decency (and, I would say, a quite commonplace accused and a quite everyday offense), that it then took this individual and subjected him to a first psychiatric assessment and then to a second, much deeper, very thorough and meticulous examination, that it placed him in an asylum, that it easily got the investigating magistrate to declare that there were no grounds for prosecution, and finally that it obtained the definitive "confinement" of this character (if the text is to be believed) - represents not merely a change of scale in the domain of objects with which psychiatry is concerned, but actually a completely new way in which it functions.

Have you read any criminological texts? They are staggering. And I say this out of astonishment, not aggressiveness, because I fail to comprehend how the dis- course of criminology has been able to go on at this level. One has the impression that it is of such utility, is needed so urgently and rendered so vital for the working of the system, that it does not even need to seek a theoretical justification for itself, or even simply a coherent framework. It is entirely utilitarian. I think one needs to investigate why such a 'learned' discourse became so indispensable to the functioning of the nineteenth century penal system. (Foucault, 1975/1980 p.47)

1880s Charcot's work on hysteria

Foucault 23.1.1974, pages 253-254

What is a demented person? He is someone who is nothing other than the reality of his madness; he is the person in whom the multiplicity of symptoms or, rather their flattening out, is such that its is no longer possible to ascribe to him a specific symptomatology by which he could be characterised...

... the hysterics.... I would say that they were precisely the front of resistance to this gradient of dementia that involved the double game of psychiatric power and asylum discipline... A hysteric is someone who is so seduced by the best and most clearly specified symptoms - those, precisely, offered by the organically ill - that he or she adopts them. The hysteric constitutes herself as the blazon of genuine illnesses; she models herself as a body and site bearing genuine [254] symptoms...

Hysteria was the effective way of defending oneself from dementia; the only way not to be demented in a nineteenth century hospital was to be a hysteric...

The hysteric has magnificent symptoms, but at the same time she sidesteps the reality of her illness; she goes against the current of the asylum game and, to that extent, we salute the hysterics as the true militants of antipsychiatry.

A. Desjardin, 1883, Les Cahiers des États généraux et la justice criminelle

E. Seligman, 1901, La Justice sous la Révolution, I, 1901

15.10.1926 Michel Foucault born

From The Minimalist Self (Autumn 1983)

Foucault: Chancellor Dollfuss was assassinated by the Nazis in... 1934. It is something very far from us now. Very few people remember the murder of Dollfuss. I remember very well that I was very scared by that. I think it was my first strong fright about death.

I also remember refugees from Spain arriving in Poitiers. I remember fighting in school with my classmates about the Ethiopian war.

I think that boys and girls of this generation had their childhood formed by these great historical events. The menace of war was our background, our framework of existence.

We did not know when I was ten or eleven years old, whether we would become German or remain French. We did not know whether we would die or not in the bombing, and so on.

Then the war arrived.

Much more than the activities of family life, it was these events concerning the world which are the substance of our memory. I say "our" because I am nearly sure that most boys and girls in France at this moment had the same experience. Our private life was really threatened.

Maybe that is the reason why I am fascinated by history and the relationships between personal experience and those event of which we are part. I think that is the nucleus of my theoretical desires. [Foucault laughs]

When I was sixteen or seventeen I knew only one thing: school life was an environment protected from exterior menaces, from politics. And I have always been fascinated by living protected in a scholarly environment, in an intellectual milieu. Knowledge is for me that which must function as a protection of the individual existence and as a comprehension of the exterior world. I think that's it. Knowledge is a means of surviving by understanding.

Question: Your remain fascinated by the period even though you don't write about it.

Foucault: Yes, sure

From The Minimalist Self (Autumn 1983)

Question: Could you tell me a bit about your studies in Paris? Is there anyone who had a special influence on the work that you do today or any professors you are grateful to for personal reasons?

Foucault: No, I was a pupil of Althusser, and at that time the main philosophical currents in France were Marxism, Hegelianism and phenomenology. I must say I have studied these but what gave me for the first time the desire of doing personal work was reading Nietzsche

1968 - '68 - May 1968, Paris student uprising

From The Minimalist Self (Autumn 1983)

I think that before '68, at least in France, you had to be as a philosopher a Marxist, or a phenomenologist or a structuralist and I adhered to none of these dogmas.

... at this time in France studying psychiatry or the history of medicine had no real status in the political field. Nobody was interested in that.

The first think that happened after '68 was that Marxism as a dogmatic framework declined and new political, new cultural interests concerning personal life appeared. That's why I think my work had nearly no echo, with the exception of a very small circle, before '68.

Jaques Lagrange says that after '68, there was what Foucault called "the insurrection of subjugated knowledge", that is, forms of knowledge usually dismissed as poorly developed theoretically and of lower status. Foucault1973/1974c, p.353.

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chronological index
Middle Ages
binary dision and branding
ship of fools
Classical Period
docile bodies
1656 - confinement
plague city
coercive assignment
1670 Orinance criminal
18th century reform
1757 - Damiens
About 1760: Theoreticians of the modern period (origins of criminology)
Modern Period
a double mode
1791 - panopticon
1791 - code
1796 - retreat
1810 - code
1832 - code
1838 - Foucher
1840 - Mettray
1961 - folie
1967 - madness
1975 - surveiller
1977 - discipline

External links to chapter by chapter analyses at the University of Minnesota of:

Madness and Civilisation

Discipline and Punish

Archaeology of Knowledge

Articles etc in Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-1984

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Madness and Civilisation [Edwards, Michael, 4.4.2005]

Discipline and Punish

Archaeology of Knowledge