Discipline & Punish Book Summary - Discipline & Punish Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Discipline & Punish summary

Michel Foucault

The Birth of the Prison

4.4 (108 ratings)
19 mins
Table of Contents

    Discipline & Punish
    Summary of 7 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 7

    In the nineteenth century, public punishment of the body gave way to private punishment of the soul.

    On 2 March 1757, the streets of Paris witnessed a ghastly spectacle.

    Robert-François Damiens, a domestic servant, was publicly executed before a baying mob for his attempt to assassinate the French king, Louis XV.

    Damiens was to be quartered: his limbs were pulled by four horses driven in opposing directions. But when the arms and legs refused to detach from Damiens’ torso, the executioner drew out his knife and sheared through the tendons and tissue before the horses completed the dismemberment.

    But the execution was the last of its kind. By the turn of the eighteenth century in Europe, punishment as a public spectacle was no longer in vogue. Instead, a new approach to punishment became the norm. Now it was to take place behind closed doors and its workings were set to a timetable.

    In the nineteenth century, fewer than a hundred years after Damiens’ execution, the new penal style was codified in texts such as French politician Léon Faucher’s rules “for the House of young prisoners in Paris.”

    The prisoners’ day began at five in the morning, when they were woken by repeated cracks on a drum. By quarter to six, they were at work. They were fed at ten. Teaching began at twenty minutes to eleven. From one o’clock until seven was another period of work. Then, at half past seven, the cells were locked for a night curfew.

    Such a regimen indicated that the nature of punishment had changed. It was no longer a public indication of the will of sovereign governmental powers. It was now one in which bureaucratic penalties were fused with defined imprisonments and stringent schedules.

    Where once corporal punishment and pain had been central to ideas of punishment, now the soul of the criminal was deemed much more important.

    It’s very easy to think – as many historians have – that this represents some sort of development, that the declining severity of punishment indicates a humane advance.

    But the author thinks they have the wrong end of the stick. The purpose of punishment had changed. The objective was no longer to break the criminal’s body. It was now to target hearts and minds, thoughts and will.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Discipline & Punish?

    Key ideas in Discipline & Punish

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Discipline & Punish about?

    Discipline & Punish (1975) is a celebrated work of renowned French philosopher and sociologist Michel Foucault. Foucault studies the history of forms of power, punishment, discipline and surveillance from the French Ancien Régime through to more modern times, seeing it as a reflection of a changing society.

    Best quote from Discipline & Punish

    Discipline is a political anatomy of detail.

    —Michel Foucault
    example alt text

    Who should read Discipline & Punish?

    • Concerned citizens worried about the overreach of mass surveillance
    • Philosophers, historians, cultural scientists and sociologists
    • Anyone interested in modern prisons

    About the Author

    Michel Foucault (1926-1984), born in Poitiers, France, was a superstar academic of the twentieth century. He served as director of the Institute Français in Hamburg, Germany, and at the Institute de Philosophie at the Faculté des Lettres in the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France. Foucault wrote articles for newspapers, numerous essays and ground-breaking books such as The History of Sexuality. He also held at a chair at the Collège de France.

    Categories with Discipline & Punish

    Books like Discipline & Punish

    People ❤️ Blinkist
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    27 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial