5 May 2017

What are the fundamental differences between sovereign power and disciplinary power according to Foucault? What are the major characteristics of disciplinary power? Why is it a more efficient form of power? Sovereign power is a type of power in which is traced back before the classical age, signifies the centrality of power. In this period, power was exercised through monarch it is the ruler who decided to the life and death of his populace. Thus any threat challenging the Kings authority was punished harshly from his Jurisdiction.

On the other hand, disciplinary power is different from sovereign power in many respects. With the introduction of enlightenment and modern institutions disciplinary power focuses its punishment to soul instead of human body itself. This paper explains the differences between sovereign power and disciplinary power according to Foucault thereafter clarify the characteristics of disciplinary power and finally investigates why is it more efficient form of power. Primary aim of sovereign power was creating a fear and discouragement among citizens. In sovereign power, punishment of body was utmost important.

Violent punishments occurred in front of an audience to prevent individuals from challenging the kings authority. As it seen sovereign power is public and concentrates on punishment of body instead of soul while disciplinary power is more private, passive, calculated explicitly individualistic form of power and focusing on punishment of soul. Therefore sovereign power was centralized and king hold the power to control of his masses and also there was no room for individualization. As ime goes on power is decentralized into institutions where knowledge gains importance.

Knowledge created through the human sciences can answer as a normative standard in which individuals observe their own behaviors and evaluate themselves according to these norms. Disciplinary power is productive contrast to repressive old form of power and created knowledge about the individual. In sovereign power if king wanted to take away property, tax his people or take lives, he would free to exercise it therefore sovereign power is negative and reductive type of power. Disciplinary power is constant and all pervasive, it is continuous and omnipresent one cannot see the real power itself but effects of power was perceived.

Yet, sovereign power is periodic and discontinuous, it occasionally occurs to correct opposing group. Century later, punishment methods evolved and become more corrective and less violent in nature. As human science gains significance institutions such as hospitals, prisons, educational system started to implement disciplinary power to individuals. Psychology, psychiatry, sociology become more crucial than laws. These networks of power exercises power over individuals by disciplining the body. Object of punishment replaced by instrument of punishment.

Disciplinary power makes docile bodies in nature by putting control over body. Moreover, sophistication of control increased and also coercion of body becomes constant. There are three main characteristics ot disciplinary power these are hierarchical observation, normalization of Judgment and examination. In hierarchical organization structural design and organization of individuals are of utmost importance. In hierarchical bservation individuals are visible and also supervision is in a continuous action.

In hierarchical observation information and intelligence about people is gathered by means of supervision and vigilance. Hierarchical observation and vigilance is used as tools for monitoring the correct functioning of the organization and by using them disciplinary powers organize punishments and can correct individuals to abide by the norms. Disciplinary power can be evidenced in institutions such as factories, schools and prisons where individuals are dispersed throughout a space and are egulated to fit the norms of the institution through surveillance, classification and continuous registration.

Under the influence and control of disciplinary power and its strive to shape individual’s lives, the individual and his actions can be defined as the function of this power in other words individual’s self is regulated and adjusted and the outcome of his actions and expression is the result of this power. Normalizing judgment sets a standard norm that individuals within that institution must adhere to or achieve and those who are unable or inadequate to reach that level are unished.

To which extent the individuals conform to the standards of normality or deviate from it is assessed by the professionals such as doctors, psychiatrists and educationalists. Another method of maintaining disciplinary power is examination. In examination individual is investigated, looked at and written about. This process makes it possible to classify and punish the subjects and analyze them in an individual basis namely it makes each individual become visible in the eyes of the power holder.

This visibility of individuals is a vital element in maintaining the iscipline and in the formation of self-discipline. This visibility of individuals is a vital element in maintaining the discipline and in the formation of self-discipline which can be evidenced or observed in the panopticon architecture. This architectural design creates and sustain a power relation that relies on mental uncertainty. The power holders are invisible and the objects of information that is the individuals who are to be regulated know that they are being observed and behave accordingly.

The factors that make disciplinary power effective are numerous. One of the most important factors contributing to its effectiveness is its inclusionary and pervasive nature. Everyone experiences this power in institutions and everyone is caught in it. Secondly rather than being discrete like sovereign power, it is continuous through observation, intelligence and vigilance. It is also productive considering its strive for maintaining economic and political gains of the state.

How to cite Foucault essay

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Foucault. (2017, May 30). Retrieved June 4, 2020, from
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