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Foucault and the “Lesson” of the Prisoner Support Movement

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    New Political Science 34.1
    Marcelo Hoffman
    February 14, 2002

    Shocked by harsh prison conditions in France, Michel Foucault in February 1971 co-founded the Information Group on Prisons (GIP), a group dedicated to heightening public intolerance towards the prison system by facilitating the voices of prisoners themselves. Foucault immersed himself in the activities of the GIP for the better part of two years. This article explores the intricacies of Foucault’s involvement in the group in order to elucidate his approach to theory and practice. The article submits that a kind of dialectic between Foucault’s theory and practice emerged throughout the early 1970s, with his theories both arising from his participation in collective struggles against the prison and serving to inform such practices after his withdrawal from the prisoner support movement. Examining this dialectic helps us appreciate the extent to which resistance truly pervaded Foucault’s seminal account of disciplinary power and the prison in his Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

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