Analysing the UK’s contemporary penal system using Marx and Foucault.
This essay explores the genealogy of the penal system as a paradigm for understanding power dynamics within educational institutions, drawing from the philosophical works of Michel Foucault and Friedrich Nietzsche. Building on Foucault’s theoretical framework, this investigation delves into the structures of power and discipline, including hierarchical observation and normalising judgement, and their pervasive presence within contemporary educational environments. Nietzsche’s insights from ‘On the Uses and Abuses of History for Life’ and ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ offer an additional lens to critically appraise the formation and enforcement of norms in these settings. Cinematic representations of these concepts, primarily found in Lindsay Anderson’s ‘If….’ and Peter Weir’s ‘Dead Poets Society’, are analysed to provide tangible illustrations of Foucault’s and Nietzsche’s theories within institutionalised education. The essay demonstrates how, akin to the penal system, educational institutions exercise power, regulate behaviour, and manage deviation, resulting in a profound influence on individual formation and societal coherence. By juxtaposing the penal and educational systems, this analysis highlights the urgency of addressing the inherent power imbalances and restrictive norms within educational institutions to promote more equitable learning environments.
The aim of this project is to explore the unresolved issues within the prison system that do not necessarily get thought about every day. My project will discuss those issues such as race, women’s sexual assault, gangs and inhumanity within supermax institutions.
The key philosophers will include Michele Foucault, Angela Y.Davis and Lisa Guenther.
The private prison industry has expanded into immigration detention in return for money and is using the forced labour of their inmates to return a sizeable profit to their shareholders. Is this a justifiable punishment for illegal immigrants making the crossing into the USA, or does it constitute a form of modern-day slavery? This research will determine that through its investigations into deontology, consequentialism, retributivism and anti-foundationalism that the industry is fundamentally founded on concepts that do not relate to justice and so its form of punishment cannot be justified but must rather be considered a form of slavery.
What is the most morally acceptable and workable solution, regarding the method of imprisonment as a means of punishment?
• A study of how the unconvicted detainees are subject to torture through ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ in Guantanamo Bay.
• I will relate this to Mill’s Utilitarianism, in particular to the Harm Principle: people are free until they harm others.
•I will reconcile this with Mill’s On Liberty which expresses that we should maximize happiness and in the absence of harm, never restrict one’s liberty.
Discussion: Mills states that it is only in cases of self-defence or direct harm on society, in which we can intervene with restrictions. It is true that we have to safe guard the security and autonomy of everyone. Although, when human rights are violated, it is often the case the violator will perceive their action to be in the best interests of society. (Guards/workers at Guantanamo bay) This is the short fall of Guantanamo Bay, rights should not be violated but should be best calculated to promote the good.
I will explore:
1. The life of the Binyam Mohamed, held at Guantanamo Bay for five years but released without conviction.
2. What would be Mill’s response to Guantanamo Bay closing?
3. Does this pose a threat to society?
4. Are they too dangerous to set free?
5. Do we have a right to control where they are placed, inside our borders or back to their homelands?
6. If they are not convicted, is it right that we can impinge on their liberty? Surely they are FREE.
• Kant’s theory of punishment is based on desert and not about consequences. It insists on retribution. (Kant, Groundwork)
• Utilitarianism appeals to consequences, hence reparation programmes and deterrence. Yet if a severe crime creates greater consequences then it should be carried out regardless of desert. (Mill, Utilitarianism)
• America demonstrates a penal system of harsh retributive punishment and also harsh utilitarian forms of punishment. (Death penalty, 3 strikes)
• Scandinavia utilitarian in its aims of reparation and prevention
• UK show like America a combination yet is more focussed on probation programmes than America.
– To outline the differences in penal systems in Scandinavia, UK and America
– To demonstrate the effectiveness of various forms of punishment.
– To demonstrate how these countries’ penal systems reflect Kantian retribution and utilitarianism
– To critically compare these approaches
Territory: I used DNA as my territory exploring the role that the genetic code has in the predetermination of humans and if there is the possibility of freedom within these constraints. Aims: The main aim of this project was to explore to what extent human beings are predetermined through their genetic codes. I was concerned with the idea that through the development of the scientific rationale in modern society, any understanding of freedom and autonomy that we had, did not belong with modern thought. Through exploration of the understanding that genetics have the possibility of predetermination, I was able to draw comparison between genetic inheritance and the theory of the eternal return. Through this comparison I was able to examine the possibility that we could break free from the determination of our genes and the cycle of repetition that we find ourselves in. It seems important for me to recognise that it was not only through our genetic make-up that we are predetermined, but that we are also greatly influenced by the world around us, and the society in which we live. We are influenced not only internally by our genes, but by all that surrounds us, adding to the idea that we are predetermined. This led me to question if it was at all possible for us to have freedom and negate that which influences us to allow us any sort of autonomy. The idea that humans are predetermined has major implications for moral responsibility. This is because the theory of predetermination seems incompatible with the idea of moral responsibility. If we are determined to act in a certain way then we cannot surely be held accountable because we did not choose to behave in such a way. I aimed to explore the idea that if we are to be accountable it is necessary for us to have some freedom, or at least the ability to gain autonomy. Philosophers: Predominantly I used the writings of Nietzsche, with particular interest to his theories on the concept of the eternal return. When looking at genetic determinism I compared his ideas with those of Dawkins and Matt Ridley. Through exploring the idea of predetermination through society I examined the writings of Locke with particular interest to his understanding of the Tabula Rasa and looked at how Nietzsche’s ideas related to this. Finally as I examined the implications of predetermination on moral accountability I looked towards the ideas of Durkheim, who saw man as being moral through his participation in society. I also looked at the work of Kant and his idea of transcendental freedom and morality through duty, once again comparing both thinkers with Nietzsche’s ideas.
Aim: The main objective of this project is to, firstly, assess whether as humans we actually possess a moral and ethical basis. Then to discover where this ethical and moral basis originated from. Then to move on to investigating its position in the law, looking closely as the philosophy of law itself. Following this, a critique of capital punishment provides us with reasons we give for such punishment, which are based on a diverse number of reasons. I intended to answer the following questions: Are morals innate to us? What part do ethics and morals play in justice? Do we have the right to punish and imprison other human beings? Concepts: Having researched the subject and attempted to answer the above questions, a number of clear cut concepts began to emerge as integral to my project. Firstly, that morals originated from basic needs through hominid evolution to maintain survival, and were in fact merely behavioural requirements for the well-being of group living. Secondly, that the split between those who view morality and law as overlapping and those who don’t is extremely lucid. Thirdly, law is distinguished as a system of norms vastly different from all other norms. During the project I came to see that the arguments for and against capital punishment are similar, but argue different sides of the same fence. For example, those against argue that it debases the intrinsic value of human life. While those for argue that the only way to value the life lost it to take that of the perpetrator. Sources: For this project I used a number of sources, including books covering philosophy of law, Kant’s moral philosophy, Mill and utilitarianism, and general books which focused specifically on the law judicial system itself. Some internet resources on psychology were also of interest. The main body of text however, will be referring to Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hobbes and John Stuart Mill.
Objective: My objective in my project is to study the various methods that country’s have of detaining young offenders. I will look at the conditions that they are detained in and the treatment they receive from the authorities. The countries that I will focus most of my essay on are: Brazil, Turkey, USA, and England. Having studied the state of the juvenile prisons, I will hopefully have come to a conclusion as to which country has successfully reformed the most children, so that they are able to lead constructive lives when they are released. The philosopher who I will mainly focus on in Foucault, and in particular his book “Discipline and Punish”. I will look at his writings on how the penal system has developed over the years, his views about torture, his writings on Jeremy Bentham’s “Panopticon”, his belief that the authorities are diminishing the human spirit, and his beliefs in why prisons continue to be used when they appear to be unsuccessful at reducing crime. Sources: As I have already said the philosopher who I will focus on is Foucault so I will use his books. The information I will use when writing about the prison system will largely come from reports made by groups such as the Human Rights Watch, who have been over to these countries and have interviewed the prisoners, government officials, lawyers, and social workers. Achievements: Having studied the various juvenile prisons around the world I have come to the conclusion that out of the four countries that I have focused on the USA and surprisingly Turkey have the lowest number of children re-offending when they are released. Although both prisons appear to have very contrasting methods of treating the children (USA like a military camp, and Turkey like a boarding school), they do have many similarities. Both prisons have a very specific structure to the day that the children must obey. Both are also concerned with integrating the children back into society, Turkey while the children are in prison and the USA when the children have left (which they refer to as “after care”)
Sources: Newspaper Articles ‘The Economist’ Philosopher’s Books Literature Books and Productions Art Books Visit to the Ecuadorian Prison Visit to the Newcastle Law Courts Project Territory: Michel Foucault’s Theory on Technologies of Power Key Concepts: Technologies of Power Power over the Individual Human Beings made into Docile Bodies Human Rights Vs Homeland Security (Protection) Punishments and Prisons The Big Brother Resistance against Power Materialism Vs Spiritualism Freedom and Search for the Individual Self Objectives: Foucault had predicted the dominance of technology over our lives and the failure of prisons correctly. The connection between knowledge and power is found everywhere and at anytime. The search for individuality and meaning by the modern man The different ways in which power is presented Progression does not necessarily mean success, for example, the prison system The Change: People’s lives depend on the type of power and knowledge present. Materialism through science and technology, overtook the spiritual and meaningful side of a man’s life The centrality of life is no longer on man, but capitalism and progression. The Book of Change: Our lives are dominated by what surrounds us, such as the knowledge and power present. There is no one time more important than the other.