Discipline and Punish (1975) was Michel Foucault’s sixth book and it defined Foucault’s approach to what was called the history of ideas. D&P is concerned with the ways we have learnt – over many centuries – to govern people so that they do what we want without force. The book was hugely influential for historians, sociologists and philosophers and influenced a generation of critical thinkers in areas as diverse as architecture, health care and public policy.
I first came across D&P when I was reading Foucault’s work for my PhD. Foucault’s explanations of the ways we have learnt to discipline our conduct to make people docile and compliant (especially observation and surveillance, examination and normalization) have been enduring themes in my writing for nearly a decade. I still refer to the book at times and wonder at the subtlety, complexity and genius of Foucault’s insights.