Re: Surveiller et Punir

On Fri, 17 Oct 1997, david wachtfogel wrote:
> > 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

... and John wrote
> 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
> internalized.
> So I think that the English title actually works quite well.
> --John

David and John

OK, maybe English title doesn't COMPLETELY miss the point. But still, it
doesn't represent the idea of the book in the way Foucault originally
wanted. And it also makes strong limitations in which ways the book shoulg
or could be undertood.

First example about the subject that I mean that comes to mind, is the way
Anthony Giddens uses Foucault in "Constitution of society". If I remember
right, Giddens is speaking about time and space and how F could be used to
understand this. Of course giddens doesn't completely misunderstand F.
Still his (Giddens) point of view is completely based on discipline. At
least in this case using "surveillance" could have been better choice;
understanding it through panopticon-modality locates it more clearly
near to time-space-subject than "discipline" can be located.

Second good example is how John reacted to my post. He thinks that
"discipline" is even better way to describe what F. wants to say than
"surveille(r)". Still almost everything he says about why "discipline"
should be prefered could be said about surveillence also. Well, maybe not
Monty Python -thing. I feel that in that very book, call it whatever you
like, surveillence should be understood as more abstract thing than
"discipline". The difference is like between cause and effect, discipline
being the latter, allthough I clearly understand it is not the same thing.
I think that surveillence has much broader and much more primary meaning
than discipline in Foucault's text. There has to be surveillence to be

Or maybe I have just read the wrong translation. One possibility is that
Foucault could be understood in both ways.

Sorry about the bad language. I hope I have read Foucault better than I
write about it.

Jani Erola
Postmodern Riskhabitus and Anomie -Contemporary
Structuration Evaluation Project
Department of Sociology
20014 University of Turku

phone: + 358 2 333 6571
fax: + 358 2 333 5080 (Department)
e-mail: janero@xxxxxx

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