Michel Foucault

Are we easily manipulated to buy a new pair of shoes or to dress like someone?

michel foucault
(Gerard Fromanger,1976)

One of Foucault’s more influential theories introduced the concept so bio power, body and discipline. Bio power includes aspects of the physical body and mental identity, and how these two things are connected. Every person has a physical body and a social body, and these things include both visible and invisible identities. The body doesn’t just determine how we look, but how we feel about our identity, culture, religion, and other social factors. People can express their internal identity through their choices and how they dress, but these physical things also influence the way that we are perceived and how other people identify us.

Likewise, discipline exists physically and mentally. People may be physically punished or rewarded, but this physical behavior is learned and becomes an internal discipline. Education is a form of discipline which rewards and punishes behavior, therefore shaping the way that people think and motivating people to behave differently in the future.

The society we live in sets rules for reward and punishment. This includes the law, the prison system, and the economic system, such as jobs and salaries and other rewards. Some behav- iors such as prostitution have developed clear ways of identifying themselves physically. In 19th century Paris, prostitutes wore red velvet and did not need to hide what they were doing. However, smoking was seen as bad behavior for these same women. The discipline of people has changed since then as a result of the society they live in, the education they receive and how people are rewarded and punished for different things.

Laws and cultural norms about homosexuality have also changed greatly in the last 50 years. Up until 1967 it was illegal for gay people to have sex, and up to 1990 it was considered a medical condition is some places. In 1998 the UK changed the legal age from 21 to 18. In 2002 this was changed again so that it was the same as for heterosexual relationships. Accord- ing to Foucauldian theory this cultural change has happened over time as a result of the way that society educates people.


Laws and social attitudes have changed over time, but there are still things that are punished and thought of as unacceptable. Gay men are still not allowed to donate blood because of the risk of HIV, despite the ability to test for the disease. Prostitution is still illegal, although in some countries it is the person who pays for sex who is punishable rather than the woman. In some places prostitution is considered to be empowering.

(Philosopher of Power,2015)


Ccdigitalpress.org. (2015). Foucault on Power, Bodies, and Discipline. [online] Available at: https://notevenpast.org/foucault-on-power-bodies-and-discipline/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2017].

An Animated Introduction to Michel Foucault, “Philosopher of Power”. (2015). [image] Avail- able at: http://www.openculture.com/2015/07/an-animated-introduction-to-michel-foucault- philosopher-of-power.html [Accessed 6 Mar. 2017].
Gerard Fromanger, (1976). Foucault. [image] Available at: https://www.wikiart.org/en/gerard- fromanger/michel-foucault-1976 [Accessed 6 Mar. 2017].


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