For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Psychiatric power: Lectures at the college de france, 1973--1974

by Foucault, Michel (2008)

Key Passage

Here again, we could take an example of this from work discipline, from discipline in the workshop. In workers' contracts which were signed, and this was sometimes the case very early on, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the worker typically had to end his work before a given time, or he had to give so many days work to his patron. It he did not finish the work or provide the full number of days, then he had to give either the equivalent of what was lacking, or add on a certain quantity of work or money as amends. So there was, if you like, a punitive system that hung on, worked on and starting from what had actually been done, as either damage or fault. On the other hand, from the eighteenth century you see the birth of a subtle system of workshop discipline that focuses on potential behavior. In the workshop regulations distributed at this time you see a comparative supervision of workers, their lateness and absences noted down to the last minute; you also see the punishment of anything that might involve distraction. For example, a Gobelins regulation of 1680 notes that even hymns sung while working must be sung quietly so as not to disturb one's fellow workers. There are regulations against telling bawdy stories when returning from lunch or dinner, because this distracts the workers who will then lack the calmness of mind required for work. So, there is a continuous pressure of this disciplinary power, which is not brought to bear on an offense or damage but on potential behavior. One must be able to spot an action even before it has been performed, and disciplinary power must intervene somehow before the actual manifestation of the behavior, before the body, the action, or the discourse, at the level of what is potential, disposition, will, at the level of the soul. In this way something, the soul, is projected behind disciplinary power, but it is a very different soul from the one defined by Christian practice and theory. (p.51)


Foucault, Postmodernism, Psychiatric Power, Power, Resistance, Labour, Wages, Medicine, Clinic, Psychiatrization


Psychiatric Power, Foucault Citations



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