Monday, October 25, 2010

Do other people have these thought patterns?

Today I was outside with the dogs and Kleio was off leash. She gets to go without one because she actually responds to voice commands as opposed to Ajax.

He only seems to be able to think about one thing at any given time and if he sees or smells a squirrel, or a cat, or a rabbit, or a deer, or pretty much anything his ears quit working and if he catches me off guard and I don't have a firm grip on the leash he promptly runs off into the woods. He doesn't come back and I end up having to have Kleio lead me to wherever he eventually gets his leash caught. It's really frustrating and I'm just not willing to deal with it so he has a leash and she doesn't. I think Austin thinks it's unfair, but I think it's just.

I started to think about how being able to control a dog's mind is way better than  being able to control its body. Much more efficient. And that made me think about Foucault. If you're not an anthropologist or social theorist, or reader of esoteric texts, he's this French guy who wrote a little book called Discipline and Punish. If you've never read it because it sounds boring (which, I agree, it does) I highly recommend at least the first couple of pages in which he describes in graphic detail a man being hung, drawn, and quartered.

Here's a little synopsis I wrote up years ago for a theory course. Please refrain from any derisive comments on it. I barely even a graduate student at the time.  

          In Discipline and Punish Foucault seeks to explicate the development of the prison system and its replacement of public torture as part of a greater process of increasing institutional power. This power stems largely from the production and control of knowledge. The shift between torture and imprisonment is the result of a need for punishment to be more effective, not an increased concern for the humanity of criminal penalty.  There is a Weberian rationality behind the introduction of the prison system. By eliminating punishment from direct view, it shifts into the “abstract consciousness” (Foucault 1995: 9) where it functions much more efficiently to control the populace than military force ever could. Punishment is both a “complex social function” and a “political tactic” (Foucault 1995: 23). Hegemony allows politicians and institutions to control the populace much more effectively by means of the “chain of their own ideas” (Foucault 1995: 102-103) than could ever be achieved through violent force. Discipline works because of the accepted inequality in control of knowledge between those disciplining and those being disciplined.
          Foucault extends his discussion of the structure of inequality and relationships of power to daily life through a number of other institutions including the school, military, hospital, and factory. The purpose of discipline in all of these institutions is to create “docile bodies” which are more readily utilized by those in more powerful classes. The penitentiary system and other social institutions provide a setting for the bourgeoisie to produce fully subjected proletariats. In this conceptualization, Marx’s influence on Foucault is evident. Foucault’s ideas have social and economical implications in controlling crime and labor. In terms of policy, they demarcate why the prison system endures although it is continually subjected to criticism and reform.
So I guess both are leashed, Kleio by a chain of her own ideas and Ajax by a an actual leash. Pretty sure that's not what Foucault was thinking about, but this is the kind of thing that goes through my mind almost every day. 


  1. It's not just you, this is what graduate school does to a person. I blame Foucault personally. Even in my MFA (fine art) program he is everywhere.

  2. Two things.

    1:It is so awesome that you read my blog and commented. Thanks! I really wonder if anyone actually reads it sometimes or if they just accidentally tally up a page view looking for something else.

    2: I get the feeling Foucault was awesome, but the obsession people have with his thoughts makes the very mention of his name loaded with all kinds of meaning he probably didn't intend or enjoy.



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