— Michel Foucault, book Discipline and Punish
Source: Discipline and Punish (1977), Chapter Three, The Gentle Way in Punishment
Context: This, then, is how one must imagine the punitive city. At the crossroads, in the gardens, at the side of roads being repaired or bridges built, in workshops open to all, in the depths of mines that may be visited, will be hundreds of tiny theatres of punishment. Each crime will have its law; each criminal his punishment. It will be a visible punishment, a punishment that tells all, that explains, justifies itself, convicts: placards, different-coloured caps bearing inscriptions, posters, symbols, texts read or printed, tirelessly repeat the code. Scenery, perspectives, optical effects, trompe-l’œil sometimes magnify the scene, making it more fearful than it is, but also clearer. From where the public is sitting, it is possible to believe in the existence of certain cruelties which, in fact, do not take place. But the essential point, in all these real or magnified severities, is that they should all, according to a strict economy, teach a lesson: that each punishment should be a fable. And that, in counterpoint with all the direct examples of virtue, one may at each moment encounter, as a living spectacle, the misfortunes of vice. Around each of these moral ‘representations’, schoolchildren will gather with their masters and adults will learn what lessons to teach their offspring. The great terrifying ritual of the public execution gives way, day after day, street after street, to this serious theatre, with its multifarious and persuasive scenes. And popular memory will reproduce in rumour the austere discourse of the law. But perhaps it will be necessary, above these innumerable spectacles and narratives, to place the major sign of punishment for the most terrible of crimes: the keystone of the penal edifice.