For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

by Foucault, Michel (1979)

Key Passage

Penal labour cannot be criticized for any unemployment it may give rise to: with its limited extent, and its low output, it cannot have a general effect on the economy. It is intrinsically useful, not as an activity of production, but by virtue of the effect it has on the human mechanism. It is a principle of order and regularity; through the demands that it imposes, it conveys, imperceptibly, the forms of a rigorous power; it bends bodies to regular movements, it excludes agitation and distraction, it imposes a hierarchy and a surveillance that are all the more accepted, and which will be inscribed all the more deeply in the behaviour of the convicts, in that they form part of its logic: with work 'the rule is introduced into a prison, it reigns there without effort, without the use of any repressive and violent means. By occupying the convict, one gives him habits oforder and obedience; one makes the idler that he was diligent and active . . . with time, he finds in the regular movement of the prison, in the manual labours to which he is subjected . . . a certain remedy against the wanderings of his imagination' (Bdrenger). Penal labour must be seen as the very machinery that transforms the violent, agitated, unreflective convict into a part that plays its role with perfect regularity. The prison is not a workshop; it is, it must be of itself, a machine whose convict-workers are both the cogs and the products; it'occupies them continually, with the sole aim of filling their moments. (p.242)

Keywords

Discipline, Foucault, Capitalism, Biopower

Themes

Discipline and Punish, Foucault Citations, Historiography of Work

Links to Reference

Translator

Sheridan, A.

Citation

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