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Power/knowledge - untying the knot : an examination of a penological method

By Barry Vaughan

Abstract

This thesis examines an assumption that has recently permeated social\ud theory, that power and knowledge constitute each other and are mutually\ud reinforcing. Knowledge is an instrument to be used to realise the interests\ud of some group, i. e. is subservient to agency. This assumption is oblivious to\ud the rise of realist social theory which has argued that the facilitating\ud frameworks of social life, structure and culture (which would typically\ud include 'knowledge') must be construed as having a causal influence\ud themselves, regardless of what people make of them or do despite them.\ud These do not automatically satisfy groups' wishes and may hinder them.\ud The power/knowledge thesis has taken greatest hold in the study of\ud prisons; it is argued that the penal reforms instituted in the 19th century\ud were designed to control prisoners so that what seemed like a benevolent\ud regime was actually an efficient mode of control. Thus the ideas that were\ud used to direct the treatment of offenders were a means of power over\ud prisoners. This thesis will incorporate historical material on the development\ud of the prisons and show that supporting ideas of reform was not necessarily\ud an exercise in power, so undercutting the principal thesis of the power/knowledge\ud school.\ud I will draw on recent developments in social theory to show how the\ud interplay between power and knowledge might be better conceived. I will\ud argue that only by estimating the logical connection between ideas can we\ud understand their proper role- how they may facilitate or frustrate action. Thus I will query whether reform ever gained the prominence it did and\ud show that it had always to be balanced by its logical counterpart,\ud deterrence

Topics: HV
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4167

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