The concept of discipline traditionally suggests the image of a sterilization of life. Processes of domination, they prohibit, they forbid, they are supposed to block initiatives and forces, and they shape the body into passivity. A conception of physical exercise can emerge from these ideas, one regarding the docility of the body. But the process of rendering the body docile is not possible without a liberation of forces, without a solicitation of initiatives. It is then possible to look at physical exercise as a paradox, that is, a process of subjugation through autonomization. It is possible to read Foucault in a way that emphasizes what the author has suggested in Discipline and Punish, that is, a “’positive economy.” It is this feature of Foucault’s theory that is developed in this article.
Georges Vigarello is with the UER des sciences de l’éducation, Université René Descartes, 28 rue Serpente, 75006 Paris, France.