Surveillance and discipline

Subscribers to this list may be interested in a front page article that
appeared in the November 23rd issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Headline: A Jail With Amenities
Subhead: But "it's still the pokey," guard says
Paragraphs of immediate interest to Foucault followers:

The cell blocks, called "pods'" are color coordinated.
The psychiatric pods are green, other pods are blue and
pink. Most of the prisoners will reside in "sleeping bays"
instead of cells, which are arranged in circles aound
central stations to reduce wear and tear on officers.
It's the latest thing [San Francisco Sheriff] Hennessey said.

"The old linear-style jails limits our ability to supervise,"
the sheriff said. "People don't misbehave when they think they're
being observed."

And I always thought the panopticon, having never been built, was a
suspiciously immaterial metaphor.

However, there is another crucial aspect to this story:

The jail...opens 18 months behind schedule and $3.5 million
over budget. Currently there is only enough cash on hand to
operate half of the building...[The other half] will remain vacant
until the city finds $4.5 million more.

I wonder how much of the crisis of discipline, which various
correspondants have noticed, has to do with the fiscal crisis of the
state, and of Western economies as a whole. Like so much of the
"anti-liberal" thought of the '60s and early '70s, Foucault's theories
were unreflexibly rooted in the relative economic boom of that period. In
considering the possibilities for transcending the disciplinary system,
he seems to have been inclined to favor "limit experiences" of one sort
(literary) or another (popular justice.) What he did not consider, and
what I think we may have paid insufficient attention to, is that the
diwciplinary infrastructure may be dismantled like the highway
infrastructure, a part of a general breakdown of "governmentation."

I think the person with the earliest handle on this may have been Pynchon
in _Vineland_, when the sinister Brock Vond is literally reeled in just
before his ultimate triumph, because the funds for his ultra-Foucauldian
Rex84 Program had just been rescinded. "Suddenly, some white male far away
must have awakened from a dream, and just like that, the clambake was

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