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To be very honest, on a warm winter weekend morning, I wasn’t feeling particularly willing to write a 750+ word article. But when I googled the word ‘discipline’, I came across quotes on discipline. My favorite one being, “Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret” so here I am. Any mantra to success is bound to have the chant of discipline. Gurukul, Tulsi, Akshay Kumar and military dogs are synonyms for discipline for an average Indian person. Surprisingly, each example makes up a different category of discipline. 

Discipline is often seen as the right hand of authority. Michele Foucault argued that in absolutist monarchies, curbing dissidents took the form of publicly torturing people. Instead, the sophisticated authority-asserting tool of disciplinary power has evolved with modern states. He employed the allegory of the Panopticon, the architectural layout of a prison to explain his theory. The guards are in the prison’s center so that the prisoners know that each moment they’re being watched, even though the constancy of being watched is unverifiable. The prisoners eventually internalize the watchful gaze. Instead of one agency or individual holding the power to discipline, the ideology of discipline gets de-centralized and circulates among people. It is imposed in intimate relations or by random strangers on the road. Panopticism directs social interactions towards a particular production mode or an education system and defines morality.

Discipline ‘makes’ individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise. 

-Michel Foucault

The discipline of nurturing and caring has been traditionally associated with the ‘second-sex’. Ironically, these virtues are of utmost necessity in co-dependent social organizations, whether in forests or in cosmopolitan cities. Women are trained to be selfless- fairy godmothers whose purpose lie in the self-fulfillment of their loved ones. Yet, on the basis of convenience, women are at one moment placed on a pedestal of devotion and, at the next, as unworthy, inferior creatures. Women internalize this notion and follow through on the regimen even at the cost of their well-being. Why should women always care? Why can’t they think about themselves? This is not meant to romanticize selfishness but rather to argue for the contextual transitioning of nurture figures in any setting. The most humanly empowering thing one can do is to discipline oneself in the virtues of nurturing.

School is the most prestigious institution of discipline. It is an intriguing eco-system where there is a constant tension between systemic forces of discipline and indiscipline, whether we want to topple the order of things or sway through them. Exam season is where this plays out. We know for a fact that the Indian education system is more like a capitalist education system, wherein its apparent object, the students, are the most ignored elements. For most students, till most

of high school, the only end to examinations is to get perfect marks. One obvious reason for this is the regimented and strict categories of subjects. Students do not associate with what they’re being taught and remain aloof to the joy of learning till they pursue what they truly desire. Exams, which should just be a crescendo to all that you have learnt, have become the enemy of most students. We arm ourselves with weapons to cheat and some very kind friends emerge, in our eyes, victorious. According to the school’s code of conduct, this is a grave violation of the school’s disciplinary code. But isn’t there a crisis of indiscipline within the order itself? Aren’t we cheating the order that is cheating us? Or in spite of the inefficiencies of this order, can we argue that at least it does the bare minimum to keep people in check?

The questions posed might be answered by showcasing the relationship between discipline and motivation. Douglas McGregor gave the Theory X and Theory Y formulations of human work motivation. Theory X believes that people inherently despise work and therefore need supervision, control and extrinsic rewards to get working. Theory Y, with a positive orientation, sees human beings as willing to work, taking responsibility and therefore being self-motivated. The need for an order-based discipline comes from the theory that one chooses to subscribe to. Do we need the concept of time to organize our lives? Do we rely on deadlines to finish our tasks on time? I rarely adhere to deadlines, even though I aspire to. So, am I a theory X or Y person? Would I have even written this article if I was not so close to the deadline? Maybe the answer is self-discipline in the sense of a regimen patterned according to one’s own priorities that takes from the system’s Panopticon things that the self requires.

Discipline by itself is a foul-proof doctrine. Mastering it is a journey indeed. But, much like anything in life, what is the subject or object of this mastery? At times, discipline can make one resistant to change, resulting in orthodoxy. The way to tread through is with dynamic self-discipline that keeps one going on relentless pursuit but also grounded in the situation’s mood. Much like Akshay Kumar’s famous daily routine, but make it personal and systemic!

Ananya Rai

Delhi South '23

Ananya is a 2nd year, history honours student from Jesus and Mary College who laughs at the most random things and get's inspired by everything.
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