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Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and the Abortion Debate or Why You Should Buy Matt’s Book

June 17th, 2010 | 3 min read

By Jake Meador

In Michel Foucault’s book Discipline and Punish he argues that over the past 200 years the emphasis of western justice has shifted from punishing the body to punishing the soul. To support this he cites a number of shifts in the culture, though the most stark example is easily the changing attitude toward torture. He begins his book by citing an exceptionally gruesome execution from 1757 in France in which a man who attempted to murder the king was publicly carted to the execution site where he then had pieces of flesh torn away with red hot pincers. He then had a mixture of molten sulfur and other compounds poured onto the wounds before being drawn-and-quartered. (In this case, however, the horses used were not typically used for such purposes, so they failed to sever his limbs on the first try, so two horses had to be added, which also failed. They then had to cut through all of the skin around the bones so that only the ligaments were holding the victim in place. When that was done, the horses were finally able to pull him apart.)

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Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).