Re: Surveiller et Punir

On Fri, 17 Oct 1997, david wachtfogel wrote:

> Jani writes:
> > > ... Why is the English translation of 'Surveiller et Punir,' 'Discipline
> > >and Punish'...
> > >
> > And in the Finnish translation it is 'Tarkkailla ja rangaista', to
> >supervise and to punish. I think the English name represents the
> >genuine version badly. After all, usually the name tells something about
> >those things that the author thought would be important. Now in the
> >English translation surveillence losts plenty of that importance to
> >discipline.
> >
> >The consequence is obvious. It seems that the studies coming from
> >enlish-speaking areas are more often focusing on discipline. And if the
> >one who has done the study hasn't read his Foucault well enough, he or she
> >usually misses the point
> Could you please cite some examples of such studies? It's just hard for
> me to believe that serious scholars would be so strongly affected by the
> name of the book. Personally I've read only the english translation, and
> it seems hard to fail to notice surveillance as a major subject. But
> considering Foucault's later writings, esp. on the concept of
> Power/Knowledge, discipline is also a very important subject in the book,
> even if F didn't consider it as such at the time.
> -- David Wachtfogel
> -- Hebrew University
> -- Jerusalem, Israel

I agree with David here. Actually, I think this word "discipline" in a way
captures what Foucault was after better than the original French,
"surveiller." The word "discipline" is ambiguous as between several
meanings. At least, this is true in English.

"Discipline" can refer to a field of study, and in this way refers to the
"knowledge" side of the "pouvoir-savoir" dynamic. But it works on the
other side as well, since "discipline" can refer to a set of constraints
that are placed on individuals and groups.

"Discipline" also refers to punishments, but in a way that is again more
usefully ambiguous than the word "punishment" itself. Someone can
"discipline" someone else by forcing him, say, to write out the correct
Latin phrase 200 times. (I am thinking of the scene in Monty Python's
"Life of Brian" where the Roman guard played by John Cleese forces Brian
to do this with his gramatically incorrect political graffiti.) But a
discipline can also be inculcated in an individual such that the motive
for appropriate acts no longer comes from the outside but has been

So I think that the English title actually works quite well.


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