Foucault’s Lectures on the Punitive Society XI

Lecture of March 21st 1973

Foucault begins by referring to a factory regulated liked a monastery in the 1840s. He describes the monastic routine before revealing that he is describing a place of manufacture and not a religious order. Such plans, which are ‘utopian’ from the point of view of employers were popular into the 1860s. Foucault refers more than in some previous lectures to change over time in the legality, regulation and surveillance of institutions, than in some previous lectures. It is also notable that in referring a transformation of the 1860s, Foucault is referring to a period within the reign of Napoleon III, the Second Empire, which came to an end in 1870, so it is change on a time scale distinct from that in change of government, or regime, which counts.

The monastic style of regulation becomes the model of a regulatory model, war Foucault refers to as surveillance that can be found in hospitals, prison, schools, psychiatric hospitals, kindergartens, agricultural colonies, orphanages and factories. There is even the fantasy in circulation of a working class, which is like a religious order, and which seeks utility rather than opulence, which satisfies the new needs of society. These utopias require an architecture suitable for surveillance, an activity itself requiring research into how the fewest individuals can observe the greatest number. This is micro-sociological research before the term exists. Foucault here indicates links between the practice of surveillance and the emergence of social science.

Foucault discusses the connections between nineteenth century surveillance and the great confinement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, also referred to by Foucault as the classical age. The great confinement is the idea he developed in History of Madness/Madness and Civilisation  of the removal of madness from public view but confining it within the walls of institutions. In the classical age the control and limitation of individuals was through belonging to communities, corporations, trades and other forms of collective life. The suggestion is that the control in that time was through existing, and historically embedded ways in which society was organised through bodies, with which individuals have some significant social connection. This could include trade guilds, town corporations, and other forms of economic association. Control was endogenous, it was within and through these associations.

Surveillance is exogenous referring to a society in which young children spend time away from family in a crèche and institutions outside the older forms of association are growing, including school, workshop, savings institution, and  hospice. The spatial organisation of these institutions is very distinct, the implication is that they are spatially separate from the environment in a way that does not apply to older institutions. These are new zones in the social body. They are more than the confining institutions more than the body attached to the productive apparatus. They are zones of the multiplication and intensification of power.

The use of the comments of employers on the official papers concerning borrowings and debts from employers was enough to push the employee into the penal system, suggesting that surveillance was not a completely integrated top to bottom form of power. The appearance of this kind of power looked to workers like the return of feudalism, so that the factory was a new castle outside direct state power like the castle of a feudal baron. The place of correction seemed like a new Bastille (place of royally authorised correction), because the prison direct was a lie a sovereign magistrate within that institution.

The second transformation that took place was that marginal groups were marginalised and sustained as marginal in the confinement of the classical age. The surveillance of the nineteenth century did not allow marginalisation, it fixed everyone on the apparatus starting with the care and education of children. There were some marks of marginalisation within surveillance as in the uniforms of children brought up in state institutions, but overall the marginals were incorporated into the system.

The sequestration in institutions founds in surveillance is concerned with the maximum control of the time of individuals. feudalism was concerned with keeping peasants within the locality, the domain, of the lord, while capitalism is concerned with the organisation of time. Individual time is subordinated to the time of production. This applies as much to the school that educates and the hospital that cares as the prison that punishes. The institutions of surveillance went beyond the gaol of production maximisation, in their control of time, which also appeared in their control of leisure (limitations on going out for leisure purposes), and in their control of sexuality. They were mono-sexual, keeping members of the institutions from members of the other sex (Foucault mentions colleges specifically here, readers of Thomas Hardy may remember Jude the Obscure as containing an English example), which was tied up with an extreme denial of homosexuality.

The institution created a heterosexual norm, by restricting the possibilities of heterosexual relations, so pushing individuals towards homosexual relations which then had to be strictly prohibited to keep up the control of time, including time spent on intimate liaisons. The discourse around institutions and surveillance is then a discourse of norms, which surveillance is indirectly concerned with as part of its direct concern with productively useful time. The discourse of norms includes the positive norm of heterosexuality and the strict prohibition of homosexuality, which Foucault implies is a greater control of sexuality than previously existed. He is also indirectly suggesting that the sociology of norms going back to Emil Durkheim, who started writing his classics of sociology in the 1890s, itself emerges from the discourse of norms in a society of surveillance.

(Referring to La société punitive: Cours au Collège de France. 1972-1973. Ed. by Bernard E. Harcourt under the direction of François Ewald and Alessandro Fontana. Paris: Seuil, 2013)



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