Relating “Docile Bodies” to Modern Society

I found Foucault’s “Docile Bodies” to be fascinating for the connections that can be drawn between the reading and modern society today. In my opinion, society has become much more objective and less emotional than that of the past. It is more focused on material wealth and status, and how to obtain it. It now places a much greater focus on math and science, rather than on the humanities. Classes such as English and History are considered a waste of time, whereas a lab science or a math course is considered as of the utmost importance. Visual literacy has gone up, while communication skills have fallen drastically.

I believe that these trends are mainly due to the rise in objectivity and lack of emotion that now permeates society, and that was described in Foucault’s writing. As stated in “Docile Bodies,” man has become more of a machine than a person. Less people take the time to read, play music, and spend time with their friends and family in order to focus on what they believe will get them ahead, such as social media or more individualistic approaches. The human element of nearly every aspect of life has fallen drastically because people feel like in order to achieve their goal of wealth, status, beauty, social recognition, etc. they have to be one step ahead of everyone else and to never admit to a flaw. They focus on the tasks they set out for themselves, with little thought to how their actions affect others.

I’m sorry for the rant, but I truly felt that much of what Foucault wrote could be applied to our own society today, and that society has become less humanistic and more corporate. I also think its fascinating to consider how although the world today is incredibly technologically advanced and filled with highly intelligent human beings, many people would probably secretly admit that they aren’t especially happy or that they feel like they’re missing something. I believe that many of the reasons why people are not content or satisfied with their lives can be found in Foucault’s writing, and that the rise in unhappiness can be attributed to an increased emphasis in objectivity and lack of emotion.

5 responses to “Relating “Docile Bodies” to Modern Society

  1. I know what you mean. A couple of my friends are really into science, and they think the sciences are much better than the humanities. While I do admit that the humanities lack practicality, one cannot deny the beauty that comes along with them. Society has become less humanistic and more corporate. Our society has changed that we love technology and are obsessed with the future; it’s not a bad thing and we still look to the past, but sometimes traditions are broken and it makes me a little melancholy. I feel like instead of being too corporate and mechanical, we should have a balance of logic but also emotion, and try not to objectify things all the time. Sometimes, it’s fun when you don’t know the answers to everything, and even though it sounds illogical, I like having mystery in my life and letting it go.

  2. Lindsey,
    I agree with you wholeheartedly about the direction society is heading. It’s so ironic to me how technological advances in communication are supposed to enhance it and keep people connected when in reality it isolates people even more from one another. And in other cases, you’ll see people around campus for instance who walk to class while simultaneously checking their phone or being plugged into their headphones. Materialism is a growing problem in this nation and the more we become obsessed with the finer things in life, the more behind we will become socially and through various interactions.

  3. I feel like this idea is one that permeates society, but is not necessarily true. Of course I would need the actual statistics to say anything like this definitively, but I would assume based on other sociological trends that its like crime waves. They are just perceived because some aspect of society is deficient. I would assume it is something like our fear of loosing our power and leadership in the world community. It may have even started during the Cold War. We are able to point out examples of this theory more easily than counterexamples because that is what is stressed in popular media. When I was trying to find some statistics on how many humanities vs. sciences majors there are each year, I came across this article (here’s the hyperlink: Sorry its long, but last time I tried to put a hyperlink in a comment I had trouble), which discusses the generally accepted myth of sciences over humanities.

    This is different from a social phenomenon like a crime wave however, because it is not just about what is actually happening (which would be explained by the statistics), but what people’s attitudes toward the situation are. Is this an actual attitude that people have, or just one that everyone believes lots of other people hold (but not that many actually do)?

  4. This is another interesting website I found that has some statistics on the percentages for each degree in the U.S. (Disclaimer: I do not know how reliable or accurate this website or its information is):
    It compares 2003 to 2010. There is also a graph of STEM degrees as a percent of all degrees, comparing 2003 to 2010. The graph actually shows an overall decrease of about 2% over the seven year period.

  5. I don’t know if I agree that unhappiness is on the rise, maybe we have just become concerned with happiness? When you look around it might seem that everyone is dissatisfied and wanting more but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On the contrary I think it reflects how modern society has grown to value individuality and individual happiness. Modern people have the resources and leisure to pursue their own personal good over the “common good”. People now have time to stop and ask themselves “am I happy?” then make their happiness a primary concern. Critics of social media might say people have become too concerned with themselves and I cannot say I disagree but I also think that there are compromises to every pursuit. If people are encouraged to pursue individuality there will naturally be a weakening of the social whole.

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