Undergraduate Module Descriptor

SOC1036: Foucault-Discipline and Punish

This module descriptor refers to the 2016/7 academic year.


NQF Level 4
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Christine Hauskeller (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


In this discussion based module you will have the opportunity to develop your reading and interpretation skills. We will read and analyse a book with great influence on social philosophy and social theory. Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975, 1st English language edition 1977) is one of the key texts in the analysis of power relations in modern society and how individuals respond and engage with societal practices and expectations. Foucault is a very prominent 20th century philosopher and historian who has been of influence also in the social and political sciences with his genealogical reconstruction of the micro-physics of power in modernity. In Discipline and Punish he conducts a discourse analysis of the invention of the prison as the primary form of punishing crime and how it reshapes social relations and the relationship of the individual to her-/himself. Foucault analyses the discourses, social technologies and humanitarian ideas that contribute to a development in which corporal punishment, socio-economic needs and surveillance technologies bring about a new form of social organisation, the carceral, and a new type of human, the delinquent. This new type of institution re-models the organisation of hospitals, asylums, workshops and schools. The epistemological and moral changes from the Enlightenment and the sciences of the human that accompany them, are re-interpreted as forces of power and domination in which the individual subjects herself to the gaze of internalized expectations.


Discipline and Punish is about the formative and power-distributing relationship between the individual and society. It analyses the history of a shift in which the private individual as a self is formed by disciplining institutions that mould the individual to behave in accordance with what she/he believes to be the relevant bourgeois societal expectations toward her/him. The principles of modernity and bio-power, which bring about the prison as the only justifiable form of punishment of crime, conflict with the ideas underlying the justifications and practices of capital punishment. Current issues and discourses about capital punishment in US states illustrate this very clearly. The media examples will illustrate and provide a wider context and more current context to the discourse analysis Foucault provides in Discipline and Punish.


This module will appeal to students in philosophy and the social sciences, and criminology. It is an optional module for the Single Honours degree programme in Philosophy and for the modular degree pathway in philosophy and for students on the Sociology and Criminology Combined Honours programme who wish a philosophically and historically geared underpinning to understanding modern forms of punishment and theories of power and society. The module is available to students from other schools and departments as an optional course in social philosophy.  


The course requires that you have access to a copy of the primary text in preparation of the sessions

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