For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

by Foucault, Michel (1979)

Key Passage

There were strikes against the prison workshops: when a Chaumont glove-maker succeeded in organizing a workshop at Clairvaux, the workers protested, declared that their labour was dishonoured, occupied the manufactory and forced the employer to abandon his project (cf. Aguet, 3o-3r). There was also a widespread press campaign in the workers' newspapers: on the theme that the government encouraged penal labour in order to reduce 'free'wagesl on the theme that the inconveniences of these prison workshops were even more evident for women, who were thus deprived of their labour, driven to prostitution and therefore to prison, where these same women, who could no longer work when they were free, then competed with those who were still at work (L'AteEer, yd year, no. 4, December I84z); on the theme that prisoners were given the safest jobs - 'in warm and sheltered conditions thieves execute the work of hat-making and cabinet-making', while the unemployed hatter is forced to go 'to the human slaughter-house to make white' lead at two francs a day' (L'Atelierr6thyearrno. z, November 1845); on the theme that philanthropy is more concerned about the working conditions of prisoners than those of free workers: 'We are sure that if prisoners worked with mercury, for example, science would be a great deal more ready than it is to 6nd ways of protecting the workers from the dangers of its fumes: "Those poor convictsl" someone would exclaim, who scarcely has a word for the gilders. But what can you expect? One has to have killed or robbed to arouse compassion or interest.'  (p.241)


Discipline, Foucault, Capitalism, Biopower


Discipline and Punish, Foucault Citations, History of Work

Links to Reference


Sheridan, A.



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