The Other Side of Discipline
In this brief note the editorial team has tried to indicate Foucault’s insights into the practice of school education.
The admirers of Michel Foucault are everywhere. With his amazingly powerful writing he made us rethink what many of us tend to take for granted—the sacredness of Reason and ‘universal’ intellectuals and the Enlightenment project of a free society.
The Other Side of Discipline
In his path breaking text Discipline and Punish Michel Foucault opened our eyes: we could see how the medieval practice of physical torture of human body was replaced by the institutionalization of imprisonment with a new form of ‘discipline and punishment’ that would become rather subtle, meticulously designed and planned, and through ‘hierarchical observation’, ‘normalizing judgment’ and ‘examinations’ would place people in a network of surveillance and disciplinary technologies, and shape their bodies, thoughts and practices. It implied ‘a whole set of assessing, diagnostic, prognostic, normative judgments’ for acting in depth on ‘the heart, the mind, the will’. From prison to hospital, from mental clinic to school—Foucault could see this close linkage between power and knowledge in diverse micro domains of society. Not surprisingly, Foucault gave us yet another critical insight to look at the dynamics of school education. Through its spatial design (the disciplinary eyes must monitor over the activities of each child), time- table (it establishes a pattern, regulates and controls human behavior) and examinations ( as a ceremony of power it compares, hierarchizes, corrects, normalizes) school creates docile bodies, docile subjects. See the consequences of these disciplinary practices. The school became subject ‘to a whole micro-penalty of time (latelessness, absences, interruption of tasks), of activity (inattention, negligence, lack of zeal), of behavior (impoliteness, disobedience), of speech (idle chatter, insolence), of the body (incorrect attitudes, irregular gestures, lack of cleanliness), of sexuality (impurity, indecency).’ It is not one’s intention to say that discipline is necessarily bad, or ‘docile’ bodies are unproductive. Yes, like a hospital, school too as a site of power has its uses; it produces knowledge; but then, its regime of knowledge is not outside power. Possibly a critical insight of this kind made us see what the Enlightenment dream of freedom missed: beneath this ‘carceral network’ lies a ‘military dream of society’ that produces ‘automatic docility’ for creating ‘meticulously subordinated cogs of a machine’.
Now that you are here...
From bottled water to oxygen cans, not even the basics are free in a market-driven world. Why then, do we take free and independent journalism for granted? We find ourselves at a time when more people like you, are reading and coming out in support of The New Leam’s independent, in-depth and throughly issue based journalism than ever before. From grassroot stories and field-reports, to in-depth analysis of the pertinent political issues of our times, to news on gender, culture and educational issues- The New Leam has been dedicated to bringing out stories that speak out the soul of India and take you beyond the propaganda-filled corridors of mainstream journalism in India. We have made an important choice of keeping our journalism free of vested political interests, commercial funding and influence of partisan stakeholders, so that we can bring forward news and stories based on facts and provide a platform where readers can find information with integrity and a journalism premised on honesty.
Your support to The New Leam is your contribution towards giving a voice to the voiceless, going to the depths of issues that others shy away from and rigorously illuminating the flame of criticality and courage in dark times. We hope that you will come forward to support The New Leam today so that we can keep delivering quality-independent journalism to you and inform public opinion in the right direction. No matter how big or small your contribution may be, it is tremendously important. It takes only a moment, Support The New Leam now!