Discipline and Punish Themes

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Power-Knowledge

Foucault’s concept of power-knowledge is central to Discipline and Punish, and his thought in general. For Foucault, power and knowledge are not to be understood as independent concepts but are indivisibly connected – knowledge is always a function of power, and power is always expressed and exerted through knowledge. The fact that Foucault conceives of them as a unified concept indicates that in his thought, they cannot be understood without each other.

Foucault understands power not merely as a political force, as one would see in a sovereign over their subjects, but as a ubiquitous network of force relations that extends everywhere. Foucault argues that power is through disciplinary means, which is enacted through not just strictly penal institutions, but ones we are used to thinking of as innocuous, such as schools and hospitals. An example of a powerful disciplinary mechanism is the modern prevalence of surveillance, which...

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