notes from the vault #2. Michel Foucault, La Société Punitive. Cours au Collège de France. 1972-1973
LEÇON DU 24 janvier 1973
Robespierre’s anti-Rousseauiste position which denounces capital punishment – once a criminal has been identified as such, surely it is barbaric to carry out further punishment ?
The notion of the criminal as ‘enemy of society’ provided the framework for a series of politico-theoretical debates cf. Marx and the Debates on the Law on Theft from Woods
How emprisonment became a new penal tactic.
Prison, something Foucault explains at length in Surveiller et punir, is not a longstanding mode of punishment despite appearance to the contrary.
1767 – Code Criminel states that prison does not constitute a sentence.
1831 – Rémusat declares that the major sentences now given are all some form of incarceration – forced labour, the penal colony, corrective, detention, life imprisonment, (p.65)
La matrice architecturale des prisons européennes
1793 – Jeremy Bentham carries out his Panopticon project – inspired by the work his brother, Samuel, a maritime engineer, had carried out for Catherine II of Russia which essentially comprised port surveillance. (p.66, See also Bentham, The Panopticon Writings and Philip Steadman’s article ‘Samuel Bentham’s Panopticon’)
Foucault wonders at the dual movement in which the crimina comes to be established as enemy of society and prison comes to constitute the dominant form of incarceration with a whole series and hierarchy of incarceration. He suggests that the two emerge independently, are somewhat heterogeneous but might be analysed together in terms of what he refers to as ‘une tactique d’ensemble.’
Prison – a law unto itself
The ongoing, perpetual attempt for the penal system to escape the control of the judicial and legal system. So prison does not appear as a consequence of legal theory. Accused parties were detained before trial but this as Le Trosne made clear was not a punishment – rather, it was the physical assertion as to the whereabouts of a suspect. A physical guarantee.
But where a link can be established is via the idea of crime as against the interest of society as a whole. If this is how crime is viewed then punishment no longer represents vengeance or reparation but instead constitutes the means by which society is protected from further threats.
1, each society can adjust as appropriate the punishment of a crime since this does not carry a value in itself but only according to social utility.
[this is why we see ridiculous prison sentences for the theft of bottles of water after the 2011 riots]
2. Counter-Attack ! Disarm the enemy of society. Either by taking away his or her ability to cause harm or by reintroducing them to their social obligations – the social pact.
3. In order to ensure the second principle – the need for continual surveillance and monitoring during sentence and reeducation.
4. If a sentence is aimed at the protection of society – this means it must also prevent new enemies appearing. It must function as a warning and a deterrence in the most public and infallible way.
These four principles lead to three modes of punishment – none of which consists of imprisonment :
- Le modèle de l’infamie - idea that punishment is the result of popular justice – indictment of the criminal is as a result of general consensus of the public. In this respect, there is no real need for a tribunal since the public decides on the guilt and sentence. Where corporal punishment leaves a mark on the body, here a trace is left in public memory – it is the longevity of such memory that determines the possibility of reconciliation of criminal with society. Some crimes are forgotten more quickly and easily than others.
- Le modèle du talion – idea of an ‘eye for an eye’ - the direct, precise correlation between crime and punishment. Resurgence in 18th century.
Foucault describes this as ‘une pure et simple contre-attaque sociale.’ [We might also link the idea that every crime and variation of a crime – non-violent, violent theft etc – has a corresponding punishment to the notion of the inventory, the intensification of techniques for calcualting the worth of every aspect of labour, every material etc cf. the everyday political economy of Crusoe and others] – Yet, at the very moment this was being posited by Le Peletier (1791) and others (Beccaria, Brissot) – prison was replacing other punishments [so the implication here is that prison allows for the principle of direct reparation but does so via the complex system of penal sentences and the spatial and temporal conditions attached to these – more on time to follow].
3. Le modèle de l’esclavage – forced, public labour as the way to reinstate the conditions or functionnings of the social contract between criminal and society.
How did these become mapped onto the prison – three modes of punishment which seem completely at odds with its functionning ?
Public – Graded – Reforming cf. Abstract – Homogeneous – Rigid
With prison all other factors are substituted for a single variable – TIME.
The monetisation of time via the notion of the salary.
There is an important connection to be made in relation to the hourly wage of the labourer and the prison sentence. However, Foucault warns against setting up a straightforward correlation here. Things are more complicated.
Work and prison function in both proximity and opposition. What both attest to is a global capturing (prise) of time which underpins the emergence and development of capitalism. (p.73)
The prison sentence and the hourly wage function in tandem here.
‘ce qui nous permet d’analyser d’un seul tenant le régime punitif des délits et le régime disciplinaire du travail, c’est le rapport du temps de vie au pouvoir politique : cette répression du temps et par le temps, c’est cette espèce de continuité entre l’horloge de l’atelier, le chronomètre de la chaine et le calendrier de la prison.’