Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a slave (New York: Penguin Books, 2012). (461)

Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and Punish.” In

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Foucault, Michel. “Discipline and Punish.” In Social Theory Re-Wired, edited by Wesley Longhofer and Daniel Winchester, 299-309. New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2012. (10)

As a theorist, Michel Foucault represents a genre of social theory which is, perhaps rightfully so, ripe with vulgar description and ability to translate meaning through visceral, visual language. In his excerpt, “Discipline and Punish”, Foucault retells the physically reeling story of the imprisonment, and ultimately, torture of Damiens. As a result of the story, and nearly eighty years later, Leon Faucher detailed the needed rules regarding imprisonment in Paris, a document that Foucault details in his piece. Ultimately, Foucault establishes these practices as “a new theory for law and crime, a new moral or political justification of the right to punish” but at the same time an exercise in justice which is no longer a needed trait of society78. As he documents many changes have occurred since the torture of Damiens and Faucher’s rules “for the House of young prisoners in Paris”, as there has been a steady “disappearance of torture as a public spectacle”79. Foucault’s documentation of the Panopticon and its ability to create senses of power structure among people brings out one of, what is perhaps, his greatest statements in this piece, in that “he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power”80. This idolization of power and the responsibility thereof, is something which Foucault holds with great regard especially in juxtaposition with the story of Damiens and Faucher’s post-torture rhetoric. Ultimately, Foucault’s dissection of torture as punishment is one which history may look towards with a nonchalant, apathetic gaze, as it is a common mistake to believe that these practices are repulsive to all cultures and, therefor, legislatively strong. But, as a nation that banners its headlines with strength as a world power, it is necessary to acknowledge that these practices are few and far between, but still more than relevant.

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