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Social Control


 Both Michel Foucault and Truffaut's depiction of a 
disciplinary society are nearly identical. But Truffaut's 
interpretation sees more room for freedom within the disciplinary 
society. The difference stems from Foucault's belief that the social 
control in disciplinary pervades all elements of life and there is no 
escape from this type of control. Foucault's work deals mostly with
"power" and his conception of it. Like Nietzsche, Foucault sees power 
not as a fixed quantity of physical force, but instead as a stream of 
energy flowing through all aspects of society, its power harnesses 
itself in regulating the behavior of individuals, the systems of 
knowledge, a societies institutions, and every interaction between 
 Foucault in "Discipline and Punish", applies this notion of 
power in tracing the rise of the prison system in France and the
rise of other coercive institutions such as monasteries, the army, 
mental asylums, and other technologies. In his work Foucault exposes 
how seemingly benign or even reformist institutions such as the modern 
prison system (versus the stocks, and scaffolds) are technologies that 
are typical of the modern, painless, friendly, and impersonal coercive 
tools of the modern world. In fact the success of these technologies 
stems from their ability to appear unobtrusive and humane. These 
prisons Foucault goes on to explain like many institutions in post 
1700th century society isolate those that society deems abnormal.
This isolation seeks to attack the souls of people in order to 
dominate them similar to how the torture and brutality of pre-1700th 
century society sought to dominate the physical bodies of prisoners. 
In Foucault's interpretation freedom from the pervasive influence of 
"power" is impossible. Because his conception of "power" exists not 
just in individual institutions of society like prisons but instead 
exists in the structure of society and more importantly in peoples 
thought systems, escape from social control is impossible. Foucault in 
the last chapter talks about how even the reforms in the system have 
been co-opted to further the goals of the state. Instead of a 
lessening of social control Foucault sees that the technologies change 
from the wheels and gallows of the 17th century to the disciplinary 
society of the 19th century to the emerging carceral city of the 
future. In this carceral city the dispersion of power will be 
complete. The technologies of control will emanate from all parts of 
society, "walls, space, institution, rules, and discourse." 
 Truffaut's interpretation of society and its future is much 
more upbeat. Although like Foucault he sees the technologies of the 
disciplinary society as insidious social control mechanisms. Truffault 
depicts the schooling, prison, and family systems as technologies that 
seeks to inculcate children, criminals, and subversives in the proper 
behavior of society. Trauffaut's film exposes how these mechanisms 
work. The school seeks to isolate punish and ostracize children into 
forming a pliant populace. The family seeks to enforce the discipline 
of societies larger moral codes on children. Notice how in the movie 
the mother in a seemingly kindly attempt to bond with her child is in 
fact teaching him the moral codes of society: running away from home 
is wrong, school is good, respect your elders, follow rules, and don't 
lie. The prison system in the movie seeks to isolate the deviant 
members of society classifying them as perverts, neurotic, madmen and 
in need of reprogramming and evaluation. These technologies in 
Truffaut's film are the seat of power in a society. 
 Unlike Foucault Truffaut sees power as emanating from these 
fixed points; Foucault sees "power" and "control" and flowing through 
all the vessels of the body of society. In Truffaut's disciplinary 
society their is escape from such a world on the streets of Paris, in 
interacts with friends, and by running away to the sea or the movie 
theater. Truffaut sees escape from power as possible in anarchist like 
state free of adults and laws. Truffaut's ideas are similar in this 
aspect to Sartre who sees the society can be freed from the grip of 
cruel power in a socialist utopia. This is in stark contrast to 
Foucault who sees escape as impossible. And more importantly Foucault 
sees escape as growing more and more difficult as society moves from a
disciplinary society to a society of control.


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