Camille Robcis

Nov 22, 2022

On Michel Foucault's "Discipline and Punish"

A Discussion with Camille Robcis

New Books Network 2022

We moderns often tell ourselves a story that goes something like this: The past was barbaric, especially when it came to punishing criminals or persecuting minorities. Legal punishment used to include hanging, chopping off a head, burning at the stake, quartering, stoning, drowning, and crushing. Eventually, we tell ourselves, we learned to be more humane. But the 20th century French philosopher Michel Foucault didn’t believe this story modern people told themselves. He didn’t accept that modern punishment was any more humane than it used to be. In his 1975 text Discipline and Punish, Foucault makes his point by tracing the evolution of punishment and power through history. Camille Robcis is associate professor of French and history at Columbia University. She is the author of The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France. See more information on our website,

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