For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Punitive Society. Lectures at the Collège de France 1972-1973

by Foucault, Michel (2015)

Key Passage

the system of the permanent checking of individuals is neither of the order of the test, nor of the inquiry. Or rather, it is like a permanent test, with no final point. It is an inquiry, but before any offence, apart from any crime. It is an inquiry of a general and a priori suspicion of the individual. We can call examination this uninterrupted, graduated, and accumulated test that permits a control and pressure at every moment, that makes it possible to follow the individual in each of his steps, to see if he is regular or irregular, orderly or dissipated, normal or abnormal. Effectuating this constant division, the examination authorizes a graduated distribution of individuals up to the judicial limit.* Thus, at this precise point of the relationship of worker body and force of production, we see a form of knowledge arising that is the examination. This society, which has to resolve problems of management, of the control of new forms of illegalisms, becomes a society that is not commanded by the judicial—for, never has the judicial had less power than in this society—but that diffuses the judicial in a daily, complex, deep punitive system that moralizes the judicial, which had never been the caseformerly. In short, it is a society that links to this permanent activity of punishment a closely related activity of knowledge, of recording. The supervision–punishment couple is imposed as an indispensable power relationship for fixing individuals to the production apparatus, for the formation of productive forces, and characterizes the society that may be called disciplinary. We have here a means of ethical and political coercion that is necessary for the body, time, life, and men to be integrated, in the form of labor, in the interplay of productive forces. (p.196)


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The Punitive Society



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