Philosophy Thesis Sample 2

Philosophy Thesis Models




In this post, I am going to share the thesis of my former student (thesis supervisee) Ms. Greagel Faburada on Foucault’s theory of power. Ms. Faburada graduated BA in Philosophy from Silliman University in October 2014. I hope that this post will help philosophy students who are writing their thesis as a final requirement for their degree, as it will serve as a model thesis for them.


Technologies of the Self:
An Exposé on Foucault’s Theory of Power


Greagel Faburada


Chapter 1



Rationale of the Study

 People have been influenced by the thought that power only concentrates on powerful individuals, to those who hold position in government office, and to any repressive institutions. Since they are the ones who possessed the power, they reserve the right to control their subjects and to punish those who violate the law. The notion of power entails control, domination, prohibition, and punishment. It is a power directed towards the body of the subject. A classic example of this form of exercise is a king who displays his overwhelming authority towards his people. A king, which is believed to be mandated by God to rule over his people, expressed his entire power over his subjects and holds the right to crush and penalize those who contravene his command. Thus, the right to control and punish strictly belongs only to the king. Tracing back to the seventeenth century, the key punishments were public execution and corporal punishment which reestablished the power of the king.[1] This was the period in history where power was strictly manifested by the king himself and power took place inthe form of punishment.  This was how power works in the society during this period and people were socially controlled by the state.

However, as time evolves, the concept of power has transformed into a new form. A French social and political theorist named Michel Foucault caught the researcher’s attention regarding his work entitled Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison which discusses historically how the nature of power has transformed from the conventional to the most subtle and menacing form. Foucault believes that the traditional approach to power, a power which centers on powerful individuals who controls and dominates the people, is no longer applicable today since the exercise of power has become more disciplinary and influential. It is the power that “reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes, and everyday lives.”[2] This form of power is exercised within the body of the individual through the technologies of the self or what Foucault considered as the techniques in exercising powerover the individual body. Today, power is no longer at the hand of powerful individuals but is already internalized and exercised by every individual; thus it is no longer the state that controls the individual but the individual himself. The change in the concept of power shape and reshapes the self.

Foucault’s unique concept of power which is one of his most influential contributions in the field of philosophy caught the researcher’s attention. For this reason, the researcher chose to study Foucault particularly on his notion of power and domination as his analysis of the working of power in the society is clearly seen today. Foucault’s fascinating theory of power could help people realize and understand the true notion of power. In other words, his philosophy serves as an inspiration and an eye – opener for those who still cling to the old notion of power as something which is wholly negative.[3]His philosophy shows the true nature and forms of power circulating within the social body; however, people are unaware of the fact that they are victims of power and domination. They do not fully understand the mechanisms of power relations in the contemporary society. It is therefore necessary for this research to be done as it may help people to become aware of the way we are controlled by the subtle mechanisms of power in the contemporary times.

Theoretical Background

Paul-Michel Foucault (1926 – 1984) was a well-known French social theorist and a historian who wrote the book Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison),which was published in French, in 1975.  His theories are centered on the inextricable relationship of power and knowledge and how they became tools for social control. In his seminal work Discipline and Punish, he presents a genealogical critique of the development of the modern way of punishment. Through this book, Foucault seeks a renewal of the form of punishment in France. The elimination of torture and execution as form of punishment is one of the main concerns of this new mode of penal system, thus it is considered to be more gentle type of punishment. This type of punishment is more disciplinary rather than oppressive. However, such reform of power execution also emphasizes a new goal for social control and domination, and this is to produce docile bodies.

Scholars and readers presented their contrasting views that show the uniqueness and complexities of Foucault’s philosophy. Various extensive studies were conducted to support and question his principles. Starting from Stanley Cohen who claims that, “to write today about punishment and classification without Foucault, is like talking about the unconscious without Freud.”[4] Cohen considered Foucault’s Discipline and Punish as essential in the understanding of the substance of criminology. This is because Foucault’s seminal work Discipline and Punish helps people understand the true nature of a crime; and the corresponding formal punishment that is necessary to correct the behavior of the person committing such crime. In this case, the concept of punishment is no longer understood as an exercise of power that emanates from the state but rather, it is the exercise of control to discipline the body of the individual.

In addition, Mariana Valverde,[5] another reader of Foucault, expresses in her article entitled “Beyond Discipline and Punish: Foucault’s Challenge to Criminology”that a more extensive study of Foucault’s book could inspire people in radical rethinking of the questions concerning those things which are reducible to crime and criminal justice, thus enabling the people to move beyond the unjust criticisms of administrative criminology or trying to displace it.[6] Valverde points out that Foucault’s works as a whole should be studied and digested comprehensively as it may encourage people to do critical reflection and examination about the issue on criminology. In this way, the awful criticisms on administrative criminology will be avoided.

Another reader of Foucault’s seminal work Discipline and Punish David Garland,[7] claimed that this work “has an ‘out-of-ordinariness’ which never fails to provoke comment and discussion.”[8]This is because in this book, Foucault shows how the idea of domination and social control is achieved and how it socially constructed individuals in the contemporary world.

Also in this book, Foucault explained in detail the structure and the architecture of Bentham’s Panopticism and how it symbolizes disciplinary power. In this regard, Nasser Zakariya, another individual who conducted a review on Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, claimed that Foucault is “an architectonic thinker of a kind.”[9]Foucault is also regarded as one of the most important post-modern thinker of his time, though he never accepts himself as a post-modernist. According to S. Paneerselvam, one of Foucault’s earliest readers, what made Foucault to be famous thinker in post-modern thought is his critique of modernity and humanism, knowledge, and discourse and power.[10] In his critique of modernity, Foucault argues that human beings have been controlled and dominated by social institutions and discourses and practices. Moreover, Paneerselvam emphasizes that Foucault analyzes knowledge as something that is always part of power relations in the contemporary society. Thus, modern forms of power and knowledge generated a modern form of domination.

Foucault’s works particularly on the notion of power and knowledge and on the issue of subjectivity of the body havealso become extremely influential to the feminist theorists and scholars. Angela King[11] in her journal article “The Prisoner of Gender: Foucault and the Disciplining of the Female Body,” expressed that Foucault’s work is highly instructive, however he fails to recognize the significance of gender in the play of power since his accounton the role of power and subjectivity of the body are gender neutral.[12] King suggests that the female identity also exemplifies Foucault’s concept of disciplinary power. She asserts that “gender is a discipline that produces bodies and identities and operates as an effective form of social control.”[13]King wanted to emphasize that women are also subjected to some disciplinary techniques which Foucault fails to mention in his works. “Femininity,” which gives the identity of being a woman implies that the female body is subject to some disciplinary measures making their identity as woman recognizable.  This directly entails the shaping of the female body through the regime of femininity. Foucault’s failure to recognize such fact led the feminists to label him as a “gender-blind.”[14] Despite Foucault’s “gender – blindness,” some feminists also see some useful implications of Foucauldianphilosophy. They find some convergence of Foucauldian discourse with Feminism such as the critique of the rational subject, social domination, humanism, and the critical bearing regarding human sciences which participates in the modern form of domination.[15]

As we can see, Foucault’s difficult and complex yet powerful theory of control and domination remain highly relevant in the contemporary society. This is because Foucault’s notion of power and domination still continues to show how the people are victimized in the contemporary society andyet they do not know that they are being repressed; they do not know that they are not free, that they are just following orders. In fact, as what the presentation above shows, the timeliness of their study in Foucault shows that Foucault remains to be felt in the political scene. The review indeed shows that it is still necessary and relevant to study Foucault since his theory of power and domination is not fully understood.

Statement of the Problem

This study is a critical analysis of Foucault’s notion of power as a form of social control and its relation to the body. It aims to address the following questions:

  1. What is Foucault’s notion of power and domination?
  2. What are the forms of power according to Foucault?
  3. How could the problem of domination in the contemporary times be addressed?

Significance of the Study

The study highlights the following significant points: first, to the notion of power in general; second, to the body as its subject; and lastly to the learning of people in the academic world.

First, the study seeks to shed light on the true nature of power in the contemporary times so as to better understand how it works on the body of every individual. This is not an extensive research on this issue; nonetheless, the researcher deems some important practices which explicitly show the employment of power over an individual.

Secondly, this self-effacing undertaking will enlighten the readers about the subtle form of domination which targets the body of the individual. As we may know, people have been controlled through the existence of the institutions of power; however, the people have not noticed it. This research will in some way help not only the people in the academic community but also to the other readers of this paper to understand Foucault’s social and political philosophy and how this philosophy becomes relevant and useful in the contemporary period particularly on the issue of power and domination.

And lastly, this study will be beneficial for the learning of every individual in the society since it will somehow enlighten them on the issue of power and domination.

Scope and Limitation

This research tackles some of the most important aspects of Foucault’s huge philosophical system, which is his notion of power and the new modes of discipline that greatly relates to the modern way of exercising power and executing discipline found in his book Discipline and Punish. Specifically, this study deals with how power works in a more controlling and efficient way in the contemporary society. It also tackles the modes of disciplines within the social body which, for Foucault, are the techniques or technologies used to control and regulate the individuals. Moreover, the study will also discuss the use of surveillance method as a more efficient way of observing and directing the subject as what was describe in Bentham’s theory of panopticon.This research also includes what Foucault considers as institutions of power such as the school, hospital, prison cell, and the church which also employ disciplines and surveillance to the subject. The idea of exercising power through the use of disciplinary techniques and observation leads to the docility of the individual body. This clearlycharacterizes the situation of contemporary society where everyone has become a victim of social control and nobody could escape from it.The only alternative for this problem is to do genealogical critique.

On the other hand, this study does not include any ethical theories or philosophies in relation to the discussion of power as it is only geared to promote Foucault’s social and political theory. This research will not also talk about Foucault’s theory of sexuality found in his renowned book History of Sexuality and his old notion of power found in his earlier works The Order of Things, Madness and Civilization, and The Birth of Clinic, although these are important materials needed to fully understandFoucault’s theory of power and domination in the contemporary society. This is becauseFoucault’s mature, rich, and powerful theory of power is found in his later works Discipline and Punish and Lectures at the College de France. In fact, in one of his interviews, Foucault mentioned that all his works in the past converged in his later worksDiscipline and Punish and Lectures at the College de France. Given the above and because of time constraint, I will focus only on these materials in making sense of Foucault’s notion of power and the way in which it could be practically applied in the contemporary society.


Research Methodology

The researcher will use the historical and hermeneuticalapproaches in analyzing Foucault’s notion of power, how this notion changes throughout the course of history found in his book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of Prison.

In the progression of this research, the researcher will consult other textbooks as significant references. The English translation of the book Discipline and Punish, Power/Knowledge, and Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writingsare the primary sources of the researcher. Online articles, journals, essays, commentaries, and summarized sources are also used by the researcher to support this study.

Organization of the Study

The researcher presents her study on Foucault’s philosophy in the following sequence:

Chapter one will present the rationale of the study, the review of related literature, the statement of the problem, the significance of the study, the scope and limitation, the research methodology, and thedefinition of terms.

Chapter two will discuss the elements of Michel Foucault’s political theory particularly on notion of power and domination found in his book Discipline and Punish. It also discusses the forms of power exercised over the body of the individuals.

Chapter three will tackle what Foucault considered as apparatuses of power used for effective discipline and the possible resistance of social control.

Chapter four will contain the summary, conclusion, and recommendations of the study.

Chapter 2


Michel Foucault (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

When a person writes, s/he has always the goal or the purpose of addressing a certain issue or problem that needs to be solved. In the field of philosophy, when a philosopher philosophizes, his goal is to present his own thoughts regarding the situation he is dealing with particularly on the problems of the society he inhabited and formulates his own theories and principles that would help address or at least lessen those problems. It is here that he is doing a critique of the conditions particular of his time by examining the problem, the cause of the problem, and providing the possible alternative for the problem.

This chapter presents Michel Foucault’s philosophy which is a reaction to a specific phenomenon happening in his time. Here, we shall understand the social framework of his philosophizing. For every student in philosophy, it is necessary to be acquainted or at least be familiar with the conditions or problems that the philosopher is addressing for it provides the background of a specific philosophy. Having a clear grasp of one’s philosophy helps the student understand the roots of a certain philosophy. It is also essential for the students to do critiquing so as to see how the ideas of a philosopher work.  As Errol Harris would put it, the best attitude in philosophy is to critique the works of a philosopher.[16]

The Exercise of Power in the form of Punishment

There was a period in history where harsh punishment was implemented in Europe particularly in France. This includes the use of guillotine, hanging the verdict, and public execution or in other words punishment before was in the form of torture. A concrete example of such punishment was the punishment of Robert-François Damiens, a French domestic servant who was guilty of committing regicide. Found to be guilty with such crime, Damien was punished to death. The process of Damien’s execution was written in detail in Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish,

Damiens’s body was to be taken in a cart, wearing nothing but a shirt, holding a torch of burning wax weighing two pounds; his flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and calves with red-hot pincers, his right, hand holding the knife with which he committed the parricide, burnt with sulfur, and, on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulfur melted together and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed with fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds.[17]

From the statements above, it is clear that through punishment, power was exercised and the power to punish was placed in the hands of the sovereign of the state. Public execution and torture were by no means the most frequent form of punishment in France. This sort of punishment is done in public were the citizens of a certain state witness the execution of the verdict; this was mandatory during that time. As Foucault puts it, torture as the major punishment rests on the whole quantitative art of pain; a production of pain that is regulated, and it also follows detailed rules, such as the number of the lashes of the whip, the positioning of the branding iron, the duration of pain, and the type of mutilation to be used like cutting off the hands or piercing the lips or the tongue of the convict.[18]

The employment of torture as punishment can be traced back to the ancient times, probably during the time of Inquisition[19] and the torture of the slaves.[20] Foucault looks at public torture as the result of certain mechanics of power. In the side of the Sovereign, public torture was a means to express his power over his subject thus revealing the omnipotence of the Sovereign.

The Reform of Punishment

The employment of torture as a form of punishment had earned many criticisms since it does not gear towards the discovery of the truth about the crime. In the mid – eighteenth century, there were protests against torture and public execution in France coming from the concerned individuals, such as the philosophers, theoreticians, lawyers, and the members of the legislators of the assembly. They proposed a reform on the new system of punishment as the old one poses a danger both to society and the people. Torture and public execution, as they would see it, bring forth rebellion from the citizens, creating chaos and problem in the society. Further, it expresses the abuse of power to punish. It follows then that the removal of torture and public execution as punishment is a must and a new form of penal system must be implemented in which the judgment of the convicted person should be evenly distributed.

The reason why the reformers criticized the deployment of torture and public execution as a form of punishment is the idea of “humanity” in every person that needs to be respected. Though a person is guilty of any crime, there is still something in his nature that needs to be recognized and respected: being a human.[21] The idea of humanity is central to the reformers’ thought of eliminating harsh punishments of the verdicts. In line with this is the proposal of a new penal system which is considered as generalized and gentler way of punishment. This type of penal system promotes an effective and efficient way of punishing convicted individuals without inflicting too much pain on their bodies; it is a punishment which creates better and disciplined individuals. Foucault argues that this mode of punishment ought not to punish less but to punish better. In order to punish better, it needs to be inserted into the very grains of the individual person. According to Foucault, “it is a synaptic regime of power, a regime of its exercise within the social body, rather from above it.”[22] This simply means the elimination of the court and the King in terms of exercising power within the body. Thus, this mode of punishment expresses a new economy of power that implies new modes or tactics of social control.

The disappearance of public torture and the development of the new penal system mark the slackening of the hold of the physical body of the person. The physical pain does no longer constitute the whole element of punishment. In this new system of punishment, the punishment is shifted from the physical body to the soul of the individual; it is now the punishment that is enacted in the heart, the thoughts, the will, and the inclinations of the individual.[23] Furthermore, the whole art of punishment becomes fragmented. New personalities like the doctors, chaplains, warders, psychiatrists, and psychologists took over the role of the executioner to execute the punishment. These dominant personalities appear as the ones supervising and directing the individuals; they are responsible for disciplining not only the body but the soul of the convicted individual. Foucault suggests that such type of punishment presupposes an effective way of punishing individuals.

Power and Knowledge

Central to Foucault’s works is the relationship between power and knowledge. His book Discipline and Punish primarily mapped out the reorganization of power to punish and the development of various systems of knowledge that interacts with power.[24] This shows the inextricable relationship of power and knowledge as the major concern of Foucault in his writings. Foucault’s account on the relationship of power and knowledge is far different from the Baconian concept “knowledge is power” which signifies knowledge as the source of power. Rather, Foucault asserts that “the goals of power and the goals of knowledge cannot be separated: in knowing we control and in controlling we know.” [25] Thus the exercise of power is possible with the presence of knowledge and vice versa. Through the use of some disciplinary codes and forms of punishments, power and knowledge are imprinted into the human body which turns out to be the most effective way in disciplining human bodies.[26]

It has been discussed that in the modern way of punishment, the bodies of the individuals are directed and supervised rather than tortured. The supervision of the bodies of the individuals is done using techniques and these techniques of punishment rest on knowledge that produces and organizes individuals.[27] The deployment of techniques in directing and supervising the bodies of the individuals directly implies the exercise of power and knowledge or in other terms, it emphasizes domination and subjectification of the human body.

Forms of Power: Disciplinary and Discursive

Power, as one of the major components of Foucault’s works, comes into two forms namely, disciplinary and discursive power which circulatewithin the social body. Foucault steps out and discusses how these sets of power are exercised over the body of the individual and become an efficient tool in producing disciplined individuals in the society.

Disciplinary Power. Long before Foucault developed the idea of disciplinary power, power is seen as a negative force which either represses or oppresses. It is the power that is possessed by the sovereign of the state or any state apparatus like the government, law, and even the police. Power here is viewed as something which is possessed and exercised by an individual or group of individuals over the other to attain its own interests. As Foucault puts it, this is

wholly a negative, narrow, skeletal conception of power, one which has been curiously widespread…and he suggested that the juridical concept of power which analyzes power as something repressive should be rethought and its mechanisms should be viewed as facilitating more than just a repression.[28]

Power then is that which directly influences and shapes man’s behavior and actions through certain techniques and procedures. This is what Foucault calls disciplinary power, a form of power which is directed primarily against the “body”, thus, also known as “biopower”. This is a form of power located outside the realm of sovereignty, according to Foucault.[29]This is the type of power which no longer restson the hands of the sovereign but, rather, it is the type of power that circulates within the social body and it is said to be a controlling power which is geared toward a positive and productive purpose. It aims to produce disciplined individuals in the society; these arethe individuals who embody the disciplines and act according to these modes of disciplines employed on their body.

How is disciplinary power exercised? As disciplinary power seeks to exercise a totality of control over the body, actions, and behavior of the individual, a variety of techniques are developed to attain such purpose, and these includes supervising the process of activity, time-tables, report-keeping, exercises and training, isolation of inmates, and so on. All of these methods which made the meticulous control of the operations of the body and pervade the individual’s general thinking and behaviour are called “discipline.”[30] And the exercise of these disciplines is reinforced through continuous surveillance and observation.

To further deepen the idea of how disciplinary power works, Foucault uses Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. Bentham used the term “Panopticon” for the proposals he tried to sell to the British government for the purpose of retraining the criminals’ mind from irrational law breaking to rational law-following, as Anthony Elliot puts it.[31] A panopticon is a circular design of prison with a tower at the center. The building is divided into cells and each cell has two windows, one on the inside corresponding to the windows of the tower and the other is in the outside which allows the light to cross the cell. The cells are likened to the many cages, small theaters in which the actors are separated, individualized, and constantly visible.[32] At the tower is the watchman who is responsible for observing the prisoners activity anytime with the full lighting which enables the supervisor to recognizer immediately the prisoners in each cell.

According to Foucault, the design of the panopticon is an effective tool of exercising power through surveillance. Foucault claims that “it was more efficient and profitable in terms of the economy of power to place people under surveillance than to subject them to some exemplary penalty.” [33]The panoptical surveillance comes into two forms: the direct monitoring of prisoners and record keeping and updating of files of every prisoners. The monitoring of prisoners’ actions at any moment and the report keeping and updating of files are crucial to the regulation and disciplining of human bodies.[34] This, according to Foucault, directly implies domination. Everyone becomes a victim of this domination and Foucault is pessimistic when it comes to finding a way of escaping from it. The panoptic theory of Foucault that exposes a kind of power through disciplines is not only applicable to the prison system; rather it is also applicable to other areas such as the schools, barracks, and the church. This topic will be discussed in detail in the last pages of this research.

The idea of Panopticism for Foucault suggests the way of life in this present modernized world. It shows the picture of the society that we have today where people in every area of life are inflicted with this form of disciplinary power; in other words, people are living in a disciplinary society. It is a society in which the norms and outlooks in life are internalized; the moment the norms are internalized, the behavior of the person is normalized, thus he acts as though he is being watched all the time. [35] The panopticism then, emphasizes a systematic control of human populations in a subtle and unseen way that is able to penetrate within human’s behavior without difficulty. This mode of power which is individualized, internalized or embodied by the individuals emphasizes that the individuals are now the ones exercising control within their selves which entails domination.

Discursive Power.The second form of power is the discursive power which has its roots mainly on discourses. Foucault describes “discourse” as the one which is responsible for the production of knowledge; it is a system that determines true from false. Through certain discourses, individual is controlled and manipulated. Thus Foucault writes,

In a society such as ours, but basically in any society, there are manifold relations of power which permeate, characterize and constitute the social body, and these relations of power cannot themselves be established, consolidated nor implemented without the production, accumulation, circulation and functioning of a discourse. There can be no possible exercise of power without certain economy of discourse of truth which operates through and on the basis of this association. We are subjected to the production of truth through power and we cannot exercise power except through the production of truth. [36]

Foucault emphasizes the contribution of a discourse in the exercise of power. The economy of discourse helps the control of individual body to be more effective and efficient since a system of discourse produces truth which made every individual person to conform to this truth. Power then, “is diffused and embodied in discourse and any regimes of truth which makes the person who and what he is.”[37]

The most common example used by Foucault to demonstrate the workings of discursive power is the discourse on sexuality during the advent of Victorian era. At that particular period of history, the discourse about sexuality was a taboo. Foucault was against this prevailing phenomenon and argued that the development of sexuality becomes secret as the discourse on this specific issue was forbidden. There was an endless monitoring of issues concerning sex as education, social medicine, criminology and sexology rises, as Anthony Elliot puts it.[38] This procedure was done so as to control the individual’s action and behavior towards sexuality.

This form of power, the same as the disciplinary power, also gears toward a productive purpose; it promotes the care of the self and this purpose is best achieved through the use of techniques that promote self-examination, mastery, and management. Another example that shows the circulation of discursive power in the society is the production of health magazines, manuals on how to have better relationship and other stuff matters which emphasizes discipline of the self or the body of the individual; these influence every individual to behave and act in particular way. Through this, the individual ought to control his feelings, desires, and all their activities. Thus, the individual self again becomes subjectified.

Docile Bodies

Throughout the works of Foucault, the body as the subject of power is always present and becomes one of the important components of Foucault’s writings. Foucault draws out the transition from deployment of torture and public execution of the body of the convicted individual to a new mode of punishment where the body is no longer immediately affected. In the modern system of punishment, the body is hardly touched by an oppressive force of power from the sovereignbut rather, the body is controlled, supervised, and directed by some disciplinary techniques such as supervising the process of activity, time-tables, report-keeping, exercises and trainingand so on.Foucault uses the term “docile body” to describe this phenomenon.Foucault writes, “a docile body is that which may be subjected, used, transformed, and improved.”[39]In other words of Foucault, he claims that the human body is entering into a machinery of power that explores it, breaks it down, and rearranges it; a political anatomy of power, which was also a ‘mechanics of power’, was being born.[40]

In this case, the body of the individual is subjected, manipulated and becomes an object of analysis.This is the fundamental end result of the execution of disciplinary power over the body of the individual.

Foucault, in his book Discipline and Punish, presents the four cases in executing discipline of the body resulting in the docility of the body; these are the art of distributions, the control of activity, the organization of geneses, and the composition of forces.  In the first case, discipline is executed through the distribution of individuals in space. At first, there was the idea of “enclosure” where groups of people with the same classification are grouped together in one protected place to maintain the group in order and discipline. However, Foucault sees it as inefficient for effective discipline and proposes that individualization is better; this is referred to as “partitioning,” where each individuals has his own place separate from the other. The purpose of such task is to be able to locate the individual, supervise the conduct of the individual, and judge and calculate his qualities.[41]

Aside from the art of distribution, another instance of executing discipline is by controlling the activity of the individual. In this type of discipline, Foucault uses the workplace where the workers’ time is properly measured and no time shall be used for amusement and other activities that distract the worker from doing his work. This type of discipline is also applied in the proper gestures of the body and its overall position. This emphasizes the correct use of the body which will result in the correct use of time, according to Foucault. Here, nothing shall be made useless as Foucault stated, “a well-disciplined body forms the operational context of the slightest gesture.’’[42]

The third case in carrying out discipline of the body is through the organization of genesis which proposes the capitalization of time, bodies and forces of individuals. Here, the calculation of the whole duration of activity of every individual and the rearrangement of activities ought to lead towards a more effective control of the individuals. To illustrate it further, Foucault uses the military organization as an example. In military organizations, the time for training and practice for the soldiers are isolated and the duration of such activities is also divided into parallel segments; the division of the segments of activities is done in a detailed plan. There was also duration of activities of the individuals through seriation which makes the possibility of effective control and intervention. A method of exercise as a mode of discipline that entails a repetitive task on the body of the person is central to the idea of seriation. Exercises increase complexity that helps an individual acquires knowledge and develops good behavior. Thus, exercise becomes a part of a political technology of the body.

The last case in executing discipline over the body is the composition of forces. This type of discipline hopes of constructing a machine by composing forces of individuals; discipline in this case is no longer a matter of distributing bodies. The body is now trained and disciplined in a specific manner in order to obtain the goal of creating a machine in which every individual becomes an integral component of such machine. The combination of forces of individuals is the one responsible for the creation of efficient machine and this machine is said to be greater than its elements.

With all the aforementioned disciplines of the body which results in the docility of the body of the individual, directly implies that the body, the self, or individual person is shaped and reshaped through the use of those disciplinary codes, resulting in the loss of the essence or the nature of the human person. The shaping and reshaping of the body using the technologies of power entails the domination or the subjugation of the human body.



Throughout the works of Foucault, power in relation to body is always highlighted as one of the main contentions of his philosophy. His theory of power is fashioned in an organized manner in a way different from the traditional notion of power. In his writings, he mentions of the apparatuses of power, these are those institutions which exercises discipline and control over the body to produce disciplined and useful individuals in the society. Foucault uses the term dispositif to indicate the different institutions of power that includes physical and administrative mechanisms and knowledge structures which maintain and improves the circulation of power within the social body. The exercise of power becomes more effective through these apparatuses.

In the modern age, the exercise of power through these apparatuses is clearly seen in every aspect of life. Foucault mentions the prison system, schools, hospitals, and the church as institutions or apparatuses of power. In this chapter, the discussion concerning these apparatuses of power used in effective social control is being stressed; further the alternative for social control and domination is also discussed.

Institutions of Power

 Prison Cell

In the previous chapter, the researcher discussed the forms of power inscribed in the body of the individual. The disciplinary power, also known as biopower, as it targets the body, is best explained through the use of Bantham’spanopticon, a model of a prison system which is used to discipline individual person. The prison system, as a modern penal system, is seen as one of the institutions of power expressed in Foucault’s writings; it shows the structure of a disciplinary society as a whole.Power in this sense is produced through the use of surveillance, a method which involves direct monitoring of the prisoners.

This mode of power operation is present in the Philippine society today.  The idea of technologies of the self, which pertains to the codes of discipline used to control the body, is also present in the penal system of the Philippine society. An example related to Foucault’s analysis of the modern penal system is the Manila City Jail. It is recorded that the Manila City Jail is the “oldbilibid prison constructed by the Spanish government during the 1800s.”[45] Just like the Panopticism of Foucault, the Manila City Jail also employs techniques or disciplinary mechanisms to regulate and supervise the prisoners through the main tower of the office at the center of the MCJ. The form of disciplinary power employed by the MCJ also involves hierarchical observation, examination, and normalized judgment used by the MCJ guards. Hence, the prisoners get normalized. The prisoners also do drills and physical training to regulate body movements. Here, the Foucauldian notion of social control is clearly seen in the Philippine setting.


Foucault’s notion of disciplinary power is not only present within the prison system; it also extends its arms into the educational system. In the same manner of exercising control within the prisoners’ body, institutions like schools also exercise control over the students through various disciplinary measures. These disciplinary techniques include separation of the subjects in space. In the case of school administration, students are separated in their school desk; teachers control the exercise of the students by following their school schedule; repetition of activities inscribed within the students’ patterns of thinking like greetings; creation of detailed hierarchies to make the lower ranks feel they are under surveillance; and lastly the reward and punishment aspect where good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished.[46] In this method of discipline, students have become subject of power and knowledge relations. This mode of discipline also shows a highly structured and organized discipline of bodies to produce the desired individuals. Institutions like schools also create knowledge about students in order to exercise effective control over them. This according to Foucault’s analysis emphasizes schools as institution of power.


Another institution of power which embodies Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power is the hospital. Hospitals along with other institutions of power like schools and prison system becomes a spatial apparatuses wherein disciplinary measures are circulating; and the disciplines employed by the hospital personnel are considered to be for the patients’ own good health.[47] One of the important aspects of every hospital which determines its effective control of the patients’ bodies is its architecture, namely the division or distribution of space for every patient. The distribution of space for the patient is intended for the better examination of the patients’ condition. This particular structure shows that the hospital “must be an agent and instrument of cure.”[48] It clearly points out that space is an important tool for and effective control of the patients. All the techniques of discipline employed by the hospital personnel produce knowledge about the patients, and therefore it produces power; hence the hospital is also considered a place where power and knowledge relation emerges.


Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power also extends in the religious domain. The church is also considered as an institution of discipline. Perhaps this is the most controversial organization where power is effectively circulating within the social body. It is here that power easily penetrates within the individual self by disciplining, controlling, supervising, directing, and transforming the person’s whole being. Thus, Foucault’s theory of power highly exemplifies the church’s exercise of power. The exercise of power in the religious domain takes into the forms of religious practices which every individual ought to follow. Foucault points out the religious practices of the Catholic Church as a fine example of exercising power within the social body. The practice of the art of confessions such as the examination of conscience, sacrament of confession and spiritual direction are considered to be techniques of disciplining the self or the body; this particular spiritual practice also geared towards the production of truth concerning the Christian self.[49] Confession, according to Foucault is a way in which people are motivated to confess their inner desires including their sexual practices and any other sinful acts. In this way, it becomes a means for constructing mechanism of social control. Thus, according to Foucault, “confession acts as a form of power and knowledge.”[50]

Another purpose for employing such techniques is to produce disciplined individuals, which means good and faithful citizens in the society. Practicing the art of confession, penitence, and other religious practices that involves disciplining the body is one way of showing oneself to be a faithful individual. What is emphasized here is that the social body, through these religious techniques or practices in disciplining the individual self, is controlled in a subtle way in which one could hardly recognize it. The church, as believed to be a powerful institution ought to produce truths in which people should adhere and conform to. In fact, adherence and conformation to the teachings of the church is one aspect which shows the effective workings of power in the religious domain.

In the Philippines, the exercise of disciplinary power in many religious practices is very recognizable. Obviously, many Filipinos especially those who are under the Catholic Church are doing such practices. There are those who exercise penitence during Holy Week which signifies the act repentance. In other words, this form of practice and any other practices also shape the individual person’s behavior and actions. The mere act of confession emphasizes that the moment a person confesses his sins, the priest does the supervision and the direction on the person’s actions. It is in this aspect that social control is exercised within the individual the moment he embodied those directions and supervisions given by the priest.

Since disciplinary power has penetrated almost in all aspects of daily life, this means that social control can be seen almost in every part of the society. This would also mean that everyone, rich or poor are subject to social control. Foucault emphasizes this as a mode of domination where everyone becomes a victim and Foucault as a pessimist, never believes that there is way to escape such tremendous phenomenon. The only alternative Foucault offers to this type of domination is through genealogical critique. This is a method that attempts to diagnose the present times and the present culture of certain society in order to put into question beliefs and principles that have been normalized and universally accepted. In his writings, Foucault uses this method in order “to investigate the complex and shifting network of relations between power, knowledge and the body which produce historically specific forms of subjectivity.”[51] In Foucault’s genealogy, he seeks to analyze the transformation in the nature of power and its function that emerged in modern society; Foucault’s genealogy is therefore a social critique which tries to uncover the truths about the present conditions of the society. In this way, the problem of social control and domination could be at least reduced to the minimum.


Chapter 4

Summary, Conclusion, and Recommendation

This research is an exposition of Michel Foucault’s notion of power that is exercised through certain disciplinary techniques or what Foucault calls the technologies of the self. It traces the development and transformation of the nature of power and its functionin the contemporary society. Foucault claims that the old understanding of the nature of power as something that always represses and oppresses no longer applies in the contemporary society since the nature of power has shifted into a new form; and this is the form of power that controls, directs, and influences the actions of the individuals. It circulates within the social body and gears towards a positive purpose, which is to produce disciplined individuals in the society.

It also discusses the relationship of power and knowledge which are considered the vehicles of effective social control. Foucault asserts that power and knowledge are inseparable since they have the same goal, and that is to exercise control over the subject which entails domination. However, people who are the subject of this domination are not conscious about this condition. Thus, Foucault’s philosophy highly needs to be fully understood as it may help people realized that they are controlled and dominated.

The central theme of this research is the subjection of the social body through what Foucault calls dispositif.Foucault, in his seminal work Discipline and Punish mentioned that the body, which is the target of power relations, has become subjected. Foucault uses the term “docile bodies,” which means bodies which could be transformed, improved, directed, and supervised. The social body is transformed, supervised, directed, and improved through the modes of power that inscribed disciplinary techniques circulating within the social body. This disciplinary techniques exercised within the body directly implies control and domination. The workings of disciplinary power through the inscription of disciplinary techniques are present in the modern society, in every aspects of daily life. Since for Foucault power is everywhere given that social institutions function as instruments of discipline, then the society appears to be a big prison wherein everyone is a prisoner.

For Foucault then, the subjugation and transformation of the social body by means of the disciplinary techniques or better known as the technologies of the self clearly shows that the body has simply become an object and subject of knowledge and power. This mode of domination is hardly seen since it operates in a subtle way. Indeed, Foucault is right in his claim that in the modern society, everyone becomes a subject of social control. Thus, again, we can say that his philosophy, especially the notion of power, remains relevant today. As already mentioned, this is precisely the reason why the researcher aims to promote this Foucauldian scholarship through a critical engagement with the philosopher’s notion of power.


For some helpful guides in writing philosophical research, see Jeffry Ocay, “Handout in Philosophical Research,”




Anthony Elliot. Contemporary Social Theory: An Intorduction. London: Roultedge, 2009.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of Prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books,1995.

Foucault, Michel. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977. (ed.) C. Gordon. Translated by C. Gordon L. Marshal J. Mepham and K. Sober.New York: Pantheon Books, 1972 – 1977.

Harris, Errol. Fundamental of Philosophy.London: George Allen and Unwin, 1969.

Journal Article

Garland, David. Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: and Exposition and Critique.American Bar Association, Vol. 11, No. 4, ( October 1986): 847–880.

Macleod,Catriona and Kevin Durkheim.Foucauldian Feminism: theImplications of Governmentality. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 1 (March 2002): 42.

Paneerselvam, S. A Critique of Foucault’s Power And Knowledge. IndianPhilosophical Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1&2 (January-April 2000): 13-19.

Online Materials

Armstrong, Aurelia. Michel Foucault: Feminism.Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (accessed 21 April 2014).

Gutting, Gary. Michel Foucault.The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), bin/encyclopedia/archinfo.cgi?entry=foucault. (accessed April 14,2014).

King, Angela.The Prisoner of Gender: Foucault and the Disciplining of theFemale Body [pdf]. Foucault%20and%20the%20Disciplining%20of%20the%20Female%20ody.pdf. (accessed 20 April 2014).

Kirchgasler, Chris.Power and Schools, Part 1,” April 12, 2014).

Lambert, Léopold.Focault///Episode6: Architecture and Discipline: The Hospital. (accessed March 12, 2014).

Marshall, Nicky.Disciplinary Power: Panopticism. (accessed1 April 2014).

Minor, Cesario.TheFoucauldian Crime and Punishment: the Manila City Jail Case. April 2014).

O’Farrell, Clare. Michel Foucault.  (accessed 15 April 2014).

SparkNotesEditors.SparkNote on Discipline and Punish. (accessed April 9, 2014).

Tao, Benedicto P. Confess and Conform or be Excommunicated. Notes in Advanced Philosophy of the Human Person, University of San Carlos, Cebu City, 2010.

Taylor, Laurie. Stanley Cohen Obituary.; (accessed  23 January 2014).

Valverde, Mariana. Beyond Discipline and Punish: Foucault’s Challenge to; (accessed 23 January 2014).

Zakariya, Nasser. Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison: Review. Review%202.htm(accessed 21 April 2014).



[1]SparkNotes Editors,“Discipline and Punish.” [Article on line] Retrieved from 2012.

[2]Michel Foucault. “Prison Talk,” in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977. (ed.) C. Gordon. Trans. C. Gordon L. Marshal J. Mepham and K. Sober.(New York: Pantheon Books, 1972 – 1977), 39.

[3] It is a conception of power as an instrument for coercion and repression which is exercised only by higher authorities or any oppressive classes.

[4] Stanley Cohen was a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He was influenced by Michel Foucault’s analysis of prisons as tool used by the Government to exert wider power. See Laurie Taylor, “Stanley Cohen Obituary” [article-on-line]; available from; 23 January 2014.

[5] Mariana Valverde is a professor of Criminology at University of Toronto. She conducted studies on Foucault’s works particularly on Discipline and Punish which she finds applicable in studying the recent criminological system of the society today. See “Mariana Valverde” [article on-line];;  23 January 2014.

[6]Mariana Valverde, “Beyond Discipline and Punish: Foucault’s Challenge to Criminology,“; (accessed 23 January 2014).

[7] David Garland is a professor of Sociology and Law at New York University. He earned his Ph. D. degree in Socio-Legal Studies in 1984 and in 1977at the University of Edinburg and; he finished his Masters Degree in Criminology at the University of Sheffield in 1978. His area of interests are The American Death Penalty; the legal institutions of punishment and control; history and sociology of criminological knowledge; social solidarity; the welfare state; social theory; the work of Michel Foucault. See “David Garland,” NYU Department of Sociology, (accessed 22 April 2014).

[8] David Garland, “Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: an Exposition and Critique,” American Bar Association, Vol. 11, No. 4,( October 1986): 847–880  (accessed 21 April 2014).

[9] Nasser Zakariya, “Michel Foucault Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison: Review,” (accessed 21 April 2014).

[10]S. Paneerselvam, “A Critique of Foucault’s Power And Knowledge,” Indian Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1&2 (January-April 2000): 13. (accessed 21 April 2014).

[11] Angela King was a student at the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University) and graduated in 2002 with a First Class BA Joint Honours Degree in Critical Theory and Film Studies. She has always had a deep interest in feminism, gender and sexual politics. See Angela King, The Prisoner of Gender: Foucault and the Disciplining of the Female Body [pdf]. Available from Foucault%20and%20the%20Disciplining%20of%20the%20Female%20Body.pdf, 20 April 2014.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 30.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Catriona Macleod and Kevin Durkheim, “Foucauldian Feminism: the Implications of Governmentality,” Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 1 (March 2002): 42 (accessed 21 April 2014).

[16] Errol Harris,Fundamentals of Philosophy (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1969), 7.

[17] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: the Birth of Prison.Alan Sheridan,Trans.,(New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 3.

[18] Ibid., 34.

[19] A former tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church created to discover and suppress heresy. See Webster Dictionary.

[20] Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 35.

[21] Ibid., 74.

[22] Foucault, Power/Knowledge, 39.

[23] Ibid., 16.

[24]SparknotesEditors, “Discipline and Punish”,

[25] Gary Gutting, “Michel Foucault”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Edward N. Zalta (ed.), (accessed April 14, 2014).

[26]Anthony Elliot, Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2009), 73.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Foucault,Power/Knowledge, 119.

[29] Ibid.,105.

[30] Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 136.

[31] Elliot, Contemporary Social Theory, 73.

[32] Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 200.

[33] Foucault, Power/Knowledge,38.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Nicky Marshall, “Disciplinary Power: Panopticism”,

[Article on-line] Retrieved from 2014.

[36] Foucault,  Power/Knowledge, 93.

[37]“Foucault: Power is Everywhere”. [Article on-line] Retrieved from  12 April 2014.

[38] Elliot, Contemporary Social Theory, 74.

[39] Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 136.

[40] Ibid., 138.

[41] Ibid., 142.

[42] Ibid.

[43] This term literally means a device or an apparatus and it is analytic of power that describes the relationship between disparate entities. See  (accessed April 15, 2014).

[44]Clare O’Farrell, “Michel Foucault”,  (accessed 15 April 2014).

[45] Cesario Minor, “The Foucauldian Crime and Punishment: the Manila City Jail Case,” [Article on-line] Retrieved from  16 April 2014.

[46]Chris Kirchgasler, “Power and Schools, Part 1,” (accessed April 12, 2014).

[47] Léopold Lambert, “#Focault///Episode6: Architecture and Discipline: The Hospital (accessed March 12, 2014).

[48] Ibid.

[49]Benedicto Po Tao, “Confess and Conform or be Excommunicated,” Notes in Advanced Philosophy of the Human Person, University of San Carlos, Cebu City, 2010.

[50] O’ Farrell, “Michel Foucault”,

[51]Aurelia Armstrong, “Michel Foucault: Feminism,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (accessed 21 April 2014).

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