Foucault's Social Cycle Theory

1650 Words 7 Pages
Social theory involves ideas about the changes and developments within society. These ideas can be multidisciplinary ranging from anthropology to law. The Social theories involved are analytic structures or models used to examine social occurrences. It is during the 19th century that the three great classical theories of social and historical change became evident. The social cycle theory, the social evolutionism theory and the Marxist historical materialism theory. The majority of social theories agreed on one thing; that the history of humanity is pursuing a fixed path. One theory I’d like to focus on is social cycle theory. This theory can be defined as a critical view of society. It argues that events and stages of society and history …show more content…
History allows one to examine previous people and societies. By looking at history it is possible to build an understanding of how society once lived. As one begins to look at how people lived they begin to understand why they lived the way they lived. In Foucault’s writings, he uses history to help the reader understand previous societies. He tends to start his argument with a historical image filled with great detail. He begins as far back as the 17th century and gradually discussing society up to the present. Foucault’s work on discipline and punishment uses history in order to look at the modern penal system. He begins by analysing punishment and changing power relations before the 18th century. During this time execution and corporal punishment were key. It was directed to the prisoner’s body and an audience was essential, especially during execution. This form of punishment was used to establish authority and to create discipline. Foucault uses history in the form of detailed imagery in order for the reader to understand the physical difference within society. These solid historic images allow the reader to question how society got to this …show more content…
From physical punishment to the punishment of the soul. History depicts the development of institutions, beginning with Bentham’s panoptican towards the prison institution. Foucault’s use of history depicts physical change as our morals and beliefs change. It is here that one can link the importance of history in modern social theory. This is possible through Foucault’s negative critique on power and punishment and one begins to question society’s social cycle. Is society on a fixed path of development or is society simply repeating history? Foucault’s use of history allows one to question how power can control society’s morals and values. The death qualification clause is one modern form of control. It implies that those within the jury must consider all possible punishment, including death. As a result they must not let their morals effect all possible sentencing. In today’s society it’s possible to see Bentham’s panoptican in action. With high-tech satellite technology phone call monitoring is possible. This discourages deviant behaviour globally. By using history to examine the path of society it is possible to see power still disciplines and punish. The invisible punishment allows society to assume we are constantly developing. Its Foucault’s use of history that allows one to question society’s

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