Discipline and Punishment: Being a Further Examination of Virtue and Vice

It turns out that my Dostoevsky class ("ENGL 5??: Crime and Punishment") is actually a Foucault class.
What a disappointment. You'd think the guy could have just called it "Discipline and Punishment" instead. I'll be able to work Dostoevsky in if I want to, but he's not on the reading list and the prof. doesn't seem to know much of anything about 19th Century Russian existentialists.

That said, it provides another layer of discourse for my week: I'm now inspired to think about the power structures of virtue, the vices inherent in institutional systems (and our responses to those systems, which seem to incriminate no matter how hard we try to follow the rules) and the cosmic ironies which seem to define modern life.

First, I've found out that the professor in question from my last post is on sabbatical this term. I now recall him/her mentioning this fact at the end of the last term, but I didn't think at the time of the possible ramifications for that fact. Luckily, I have until February sometime to get the appeal rolling, but this month is going by much faster than I imagined it could...

I've also discovered that deadlines, on the whole, are a form of punishment designed to make academics and bureaucrats into criminals and enforcers; on the whole everyone is just a servant of the power structure, which becomes a giant energy-sucking vortex that exists only to continue expanding (and sucking). It seems that each form I fill out in the administrative offices is an exertion of the institution's power over my life. Even the reading assignments take on an aspect of oppression: I made two hundred pages of photocopied reading material today, and I've spent more money than I even want to calculate on books. All this, because I've got to "have the texts." To what extent do I really "have" any of these texts? I can read them more easily than I could before, but what have I actually paid for? Are reading assignments actually something I'm doing for the sake of intrinsic value, or is it a kind of disciplinary action that's forced on me in order to enforce a normative paradigm?
If I don't read Robinson Crusoe this weekend, am I actually losing something, or am I merely incriminating myself? Here's the test: If I didn't read it, would anyone know the difference? If not, then it's probably a criminal act, the breaking of a rule that's enforced by an outside force that relates only to my participation in the power structure of the university. I think that's probably different than real vice, but I'm not sure where to draw those lines.

Virtue, on the other hand, is something I'm quite sure about. I'm still convinced (despite all of the poststructuralism that's been oppressing me these last four years...) that virtue is a power structure that works in an entirely different way than vice and criminal/lawful behavioural conditioning. Perhaps I'll be able to come up with an anti-Foucaultian reflection on the paradigmatic nature of virtue-as-power-structure next time...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

now THIS sounds like an interesting theses...maybe for the M.Div

; )


PS. they're still doing Foucault? i actually did think discipline and punish was interesting (that whole [self-monitoring] panopticon idea and more), as well as the history of sexuality stuff.