For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

by Foucault, Michel (1979)

Key Passage

Erecting the barrier to separate delinquents from all the lower strata of the population from which they sprang and with which they remained linked has been a difficult task, especially no doubt in urban milieux. It has been a long and arduous undertaking. It has involved the use of the general principles of the 'moralization' of the poorer classes that elsewhere has had such crucial importance both from an economic and a political point of view (the acquisition of what might be called a 'basic legalism', which was indispensable from the time when custom was replaced by the system of the code; learning the elementary rules of property and thrift; training in docility at work, in stability of residence and of the family, etc.). More specific methods were used to maintain the hostiliry of the poorer classes to delinquents (the use of ex-convicts as informers, police spies, strike-breakers or thugs). There has been a systematic confusion between offences against common law and those offences against the severe legislation concerning the livret (work record), strikes, coalitions, associations,z2 for which the workers demanded political status. Workers' action was regularly accused of being animated, if not manipulated, by mere criminals (cf., for example, Monfalcon, l4z). Verdicts were often more severe against workers than against thieves (cf. L'Atelier, October r84o, or La Fraternitd, July-August 1847). The two categories of convict were mixed in the prisons and preferential treatment given to common-law offenders, while convicted journalists and politicians usually enjoyed the right to separate reatment. In short, a whole tactic of confusion aimed at maintaining a permanent state of conflict. (p.285)


Discipline, Foucault, Capitalism, Biopower


Discipline and Punish, Foucault Citations, History of Work

Links to Reference


Sheridan, A.



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