Michel Foucault

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Western Philosophy
20th-century philosophy
Michel Foucault
Name: Michel Foucault
Birth: October 15, 1926
Flag of France Poitiers, France
Death: June 25, 1984
Flag of France Paris, France
School/tradition: Continental philosophy, Post-structuralism, Structuralism
Main interests: History of ideas, Epistemology, Ethics, Political philosophy
Notable ideas: "Power", "Archaeology", "Genealogy", "Episteme", "Biopower""Governmentality", "Disciplinary institution"
Influences: Nietzsche, Gilles Deleuze, Althusser, Kant, Canguilhem, Heidegger, Bataille, Blanchot, Gaston Bachelard, Jean Hyppolite, George Dumezil, Karl Marx, Hegel
Influenced: Giorgio Agamben, Judith Butler, Gilles Deleuze, Arnold Davidson, Hubert Dreyfus, Didier Eribon, Ian Hacking, Guy Hocquenghem, Edward Said, Jacques Ranciere, Paul Rabinow

Michel Foucault (IPA pronunciation: [miˈʃɛl fuˈko]) (October 15, 1926June 25, 1984) was a French philosopher and historian. He held a chair at the Collège de France, giving it the title "The History of Thought Systems" and taught at the University of California, Berkeley, from 1975 until his death in 1984. He is known for his critical studies of various social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, education and the prison system, as well as his work on the history of sexuality. His work concerning power, the relationship between power and knowledge and "discourse" in relation to the history of Western thought, has been widely discussed and applied.

His work is often described as postmodernist or post-structuralist by commentators and critics, although he was more often associated with the structuralist movement during the 1960s. He was initially happy with this description, although he later distanced himself from structuralism and always rejected the 'post-structuralist' and 'postmodernist' labels.


[edit] Biography

[edit] Early life

Foucault was born in 1926 in Poitiers as Paul-Michel Foucault to a notable provincial family. His father, Paul Foucault, was an eminent surgeon and hoped his son would join him in the profession. His early education was a mix of success and mediocrity until he attended the Jesuit Collège Saint-Stanislas, where he excelled. During this period, Poitiers was part of Vichy France and later came under German occupation. After World War II, Foucault gained entry to the prestigious École Normale Supérieure (rue d'Ulm), the traditional gateway to an academic career in the humanities in France.

[edit] The École Normale Supérieure

Foucault's personal life during the École Normale was difficult—he suffered from acute depression, even attempting suicide. He was taken to see a psychiatrist. Because of this, or perhaps in spite of it, Foucault became fascinated with psychology. He earned a licence (degree) in psychology, along with one in philosophy; a very new qualification in France, at the time. He was involved in the clinical arm of the discipline, which exposed him to thinkers such as Ludwig Binswanger.

Like many 'normaliens' , Foucault joined the French Communist Party from 1950 to 1953. He was inducted into the party by his mentor Louis Althusser. He left due to concerns about what was happening in the Soviet Union under Stalin. Various people, such as historian Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, have reported that Foucault never actively participated in his cell, unlike many of his fellow party members.

[edit] Early career

Foucault passed his agrégation in 1950. After a brief period lecturing at the École Normale, he took up a position at the University of Lille, where from 1953 to 1954 he taught psychology. In 1954 Foucault published his first book, Maladie mentale et personnalité, a work which he would later disavow. It soon became apparent that Foucault was not interested in a teaching career, and he undertook a lengthy exile from France. In 1954 Foucault served France as a cultural delegate to the University of Uppsala in Sweden (a position arranged for him by Georges Dumézil, who was to become a friend and mentor). In 1958 Foucault left Uppsala for briefly held positions at Warsaw University and at the University of Hamburg.

Foucault returned to France in 1960 to complete his doctorate and take up a post in philosophy at the University of Clermont-Ferrand. There he met Daniel Defert, with whom he lived in a non-monogamous partnership for the rest of his life. In 1961 he earned his doctorate by submitting two theses (as is customary in France): a "major" thesis entitled Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique and a 'secondary' thesis which involved a translation and commentary on Kant's Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. Folie et déraison (Madness and insanity ironically published in English as Madness and Civilization) was extremely well-received. Foucault continued a vigorous publishing schedule. In 1963 he published Naissance de la Clinique (Birth of the Clinic), Raymond Roussel, and a reissue of his 1954 volume (now entitled Maladie mentale et psychologie) which he would again disavow.

After Defert was posted to Tunisia for his military service, Foucault moved to a position at the University of Tunis in 1965. In 1966 he published Les Mots et les choses (The Order of Things), which was enormously popular despite its length and difficulty. This was during the height of interest in structuralism and Foucault was quickly grouped with scholars such as Jacques Lacan, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Roland Barthes as the newest, latest wave of thinkers set to topple the existentialism popularized by Jean-Paul Sartre. Foucault made a number of skeptical comments about Marxism, which outraged a number of Left wing critics, but he quickly tired of being labelled a 'structuralist'. He was still in Tunis during the May 1968 student rebellions, where he was profoundly affected by a local student revolt earlier in the same year. In the fall of 1968 he returned to France, where he published L'archéologie du savoir (The Archaeology of Knowledge) — a methodological response to his critics — in 1969.

[edit] Post-1968: Foucault the activist

In the aftermath of 1968, the French government created a new experimental university at Vincennes. Foucault became the first head of its philosophy department in December of that year and appointed mostly young leftist academics (such as Judith Miller) whose radicalism provoked the Ministry of Education to withdraw the department's accreditation. Foucault notoriously also joined students in occupying administration buildings and fighting with police.

Foucault's tenure at Vincennes was short-lived, as in 1970 he was elected to France's most prestigious academic body, the Collège de France as Professor of the History of Systems of Thought. His political involvement now increased, Defert having joined the ultra-Maoist Gauche Proletarienne (GP). Foucault helped found the Prison Information Group (in French: Groupe d'Information sur les Prisons or GIP) to provide a way for prisoners to voice their concerns. This fed into a marked politicization of Foucault's work, with a book, Surveiller et Punir (Discipline and Punish), which "narrates" the micro-power structures that developed in Western societies since the eighteenth century, with a special focus on prisons and schools.

[edit] The late Foucault

In the late 1970s, political activism in France tailed off with the disillusionment of many left wing militants. A number of young Maoists abandoned their beliefs to become the so-called New Philosophers, often citing Foucault as their major influence, a status about which Foucault had mixed feelings. Foucault in this period embarked on a 6 volume project The History of Sexuality, which he was never to complete. Its first volume, The Will to Knowledge, was published in 1976. The second and third volumes did not appear for another eight years, and they surprised readers by their subject matter, (classical Greek and Latin texts) approach and style, particularly Foucault's focus on the subject, a concept he had previously neglected.

Foucault began to spend more time in the United States, at University at Buffalo (where he had lectured on his first ever visit to the United States in 1970) and especially at UC Berkeley. In 1975 he took LSD at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park, later calling it the best experience of his life[citation needed]. In 1979 Foucault made two tours of Iran, undertaking extensive interviews with political protagonists in support of the new interim government established soon after the Iranian Revolution. His many essays on Iran, published in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, only appeared in French in 1994 and then in English in 2005. These essays caused some controversy, with some commentators arguing that Foucault was insufficiently critical of the new regime.[citation needed]

In San Francisco of the 1970s and early 1980s, Foucault participated in the subcultures of anonymous gay sex and sadomasochism — it is suspected that it was there that he contracted HIV, in the days before the disease was described as such.[citation needed]

Foucault died of an AIDS-related illness in Paris June 26th, 1984. He was the first high profile French personality to be reported as an AIDS victim. His death marks the beginning of the post-AIDS era in France. Very little was known about the disease at the time and the event was marred in controversy.

Although the nearly-finished fourth volume of his History of Sexuality is being held by his estate indefinitely, an English translation of an early draft is rumored[citation needed] to have left France with a foreigner described by Foucault as a "gifted professional colleague" known only as "young Monsieur Maundrell"[citation needed].

[edit] Works

[edit] Madness and Civilization (1961)

The English edition of Madness and Civilization is an abridged version of Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique, originally published in 1961. (A full translation titled The History of Madness has been published by Routledge : ISBN 0-415-27701-9) This was Foucault's first major book, written while he was the Director of the Maison de France in Sweden. It examines ideas, practices, institutions, art and literature relating to madness in Western history.

Foucault begins his history in the Middle Ages, noting the social and physical exclusion of lepers. He argues that with the gradual disappearance of leprosy, madness came to occupy this excluded position. The ship of fools in the 15th century is a literary version of one such exclusionary practice, the practice of sending mad people away in ships. In 17th century Europe, in a movement which Foucault famously describes as the Great Confinement, "unreasonable" members of the population were locked away and institutionalised. In the eighteenth century, madness came to be seen as the obverse of Reason, and, finally, in the nineteenth century as mental illness.

Foucault also argues that madness lost its power to signify the limits of social order and to point to the truth and was silenced by Reason. He examines the rise of scientific and "humanitarian" treatments of the insane, notably at the hands of Philippe Pinel and Samuel Tuke. He claims that these new treatments were in fact no less controlling than previous methods. Tuke's country retreat for the mad consisted of punishing the madmen until they learned to act "reasonably". Similarly, Pinel's treatment of the mad amounted to an extended aversion therapy, including such treatments as freezing showers and use of a straitjacket. In Foucault's view, this treatment amounted to repeated brutality until the pattern of judgment and punishment was internalized by the patient.

[edit] The Birth of the Clinic

Foucault's second major book, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (Naissance de la clinique: une archéologie du regard médical in French) was published in 1963 in France, and translated to English in 1973. Picking up from Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic traces the development of the medical profession, and specifically the institution of the clinique (translated as "clinic", but here largely referring to teaching hospitals). Its motif is the concept of the medical regard (a concept which has garnered a lot of attention from English-language readers, due to Alan Sheridan's unusual translation, "medical gaze").

[edit] The Order of Things

Main article: The Order of Things

Foucault's Les Mots et les choses. Une archéologie des sciences humaines was published in 1966. It was translated into English in 1970 under the title The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (Foucault had preferred L'Ordre des Choses for the original French title, but changed the title as there was already another book of this title).

The book opened with an extended discussion of Diego Velázquez's painting Las Meninas and its complex arrangement of sight-lines, hiddenness and appearance. Then it developed its central claim: that all periods of history possessed certain underlying conditions of truth that constituted what was acceptable as, for example, scientific discourse. Foucault argued that these conditions of discourse changed over time, in major and relatively sudden shifts, from one period's episteme to another.

Foucault's critique of Renaissance values in Les mots et les choses has been very influential to cultural history. The various consciousness shifts that he points out in the first chapters of the book have led several scholars to scrutinize the bases for knowledge in our present day as well as critiquing the projection of modern categories of knowledge onto subjects that remain intrinsically unintelligible, in spite of historical knowledge.

The Order of Things brought Foucault to prominence as an intellectual figure in France. A review by Jean-Paul Sartre attacked Foucault as 'the last rampart of the bourgeoisie'.

[edit] The Archaeology of Knowledge

Published in 1969, this volume was Foucault's main excursion into methodology. He wrote it in order to deal with the reception of Les Mots et les choses. It makes references to Anglo-American analytical philosophy, particularly speech act theory.

Foucault directs his analysis toward the "statement", the basic unit of discourse that he believes has been ignored up to this point. "Statement" is the English translation from French énoncé (that which is enunciated or expressed), which has a peculiar meaning for Foucault. "Énoncé" for Foucault means that which makes propositions, utterances, or speech acts meaningful. In this understanding, statements themselves are not propositions, utterances, or speech acts. Rather, statements create a network of rules establishing what is meaningful, and it is these rules that are the preconditions for propositions, utterances, or speech acts to have meaning. Statements are also 'events'. Depending on whether or not they comply with the rules of meaning, a grammatically correct sentence may still lack meaning and inversely, an incorrect sentence may still be meaningful. Statements depend on the conditions in which they emerge and exist within a field of discourse. It is huge collections of statements, called discursive formations, toward which Foucault aims his analysis. It is important to note that Foucault reiterates that the analysis he is outlining is only one possible tactic, and that he is not seeking to displace other ways of analysing discourse or render them as invalid.

According to Dreyfus & Rabinow[citation needed], Foucault not only brackets out issues of truth (cf. Husserl) he also brackets out issues of meaning. Rather than looking for a deeper meaning underneath discourse or looking for the source of meaning in some transcendental subject, Foucault analyzes the discursive and practical conditions of the existence for truth and meaning. In order to show the principles of meaning and truth production in various discursive formations he details how truth claims emerge during various epochs on the basis of what was actually said and written during these periods of time. He particularly describes the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, and the 20th Century. He strives to avoid all interpretation and to depart from the goals of hermeneutics. This does not mean that Foucault denounces truth and meaning, but just that truth and meaning depend on the historical discursive and practical means of truth and meaning production. For instance, although they were radically different during Enlightenment as opposed to Modernity, there were indeed meaning, truth and correct treatment of madness during both epochs (Madness and Civilization). This posture allows Foucault to move away from an anthropological standpoint, denouncing a priori concepts of the nature of the human subject, and focus on the role of discursive practices in constituting subjectivity.

Dispensing with finding a deeper meaning behind discourse would appear to lead Foucault toward structuralism. However, whereas structuralists search for homogeneity in a discursive entity, Foucault focuses on differences. Instead of asking what constitutes the specificity of European thought he asks what differences develop within it over time. Therefore, he refuses to examine statements outside of their role in the discursive formation, and he never examines possible statements that could have emerged from such a formation. His identity as a historian emerges here, as he is only interested in analysing statements in their historical context. The whole of the system and its discursive rules determine the identity of the statement. But, a discursive formation continually generates new statements, and some of these usher in changes in the discursive formation that may or may not be realized. Therefore, to describe a discursive formation, Foucault also focuses on expelled and forgotten discourses that never happen to change the discursive formation. Their difference to the dominant discourse also describe it. In this way one can describe specific systems that determine which types of statements emerge.

[edit] Discipline and Punish

Main article: Discipline and Punish

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison was translated to English in 1977, from the French Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison, published in 1975.

The book opens with a graphic description of the brutal public execution in 1757 of Robert-François Damiens, who attempted to kill Louis XV. Against this it juxtaposes a colourless prison timetable from just over 80 years later. Foucault then inquires how such a change in French society's punishment of convicts could have developed in such a short time. These are snapshots of two contrasting types of Foucault's "Technologies of Punishment". The first type, "Monarchical Punishment", involves the repression of the populace through brutal public displays of executions and torture. The second, "Disciplinary Punishment," is what Foucault says is practiced in the modern era. Disciplinary punishment gives "professionals" (psychologists, programme facilitators, parole officers, etc.) power over the prisoner, most notably in that the prisoner's length of stay depends on the professionals' opinion.

Foucault also compares modern society with Jeremy Bentham's "Panopticon" design for prisons (which was unrealized in its original form, but nonetheless influential): in the Panopticon, a single guard can watch over many prisoners while the guard remains unseen. The dark dungeon of pre-modernity has been replaced with the bright modern prison, but Foucault cautions that "visibility is a trap". It is through this visibility, Foucault writes, that modern society exercises its controlling systems of power and knowledge (terms which Foucault believed to be so fundamentally connected that he often combined them in a single hyphenated concept, "power-knowledge"). Increasing visibility leads to power located on an increasingly individualized level, shown by the possibility for institutions to track individuals throughout their lives. Foucault suggests that a "carceral continuum" runs through modern society, from the maximum security prison, through secure accommodation, probation, social workers, police, and teachers, to our everyday working and domestic lives. All are connected by the (witting or unwitting) supervision (surveillance, application of norms of acceptable behaviour) of some humans by others.

[edit] The History of Sexuality

Three volumes of The History of Sexuality were published before Foucault's death in 1984. The first and most referenced volume, The Will to Knowledge (previously known as An Introduction in English — Histoire de la sexualité, 1: la volonté de savoir in French) was published in France in 1976, and translated in 1977, focusing primarily on the last two centuries, and the functioning of sexuality as an analytics of power related to the emergence of a science of sexuality (scientia sexualis) and the emergence of biopower in the West. In this volume he attacks the "repressive hypothesis," the widespread belief that we have, particularly since the nineteenth century, "repressed" our natural sexual drives. He shows that what we think of as "repression" of sexuality actually constituted sexuality as a core feature of our identities, and produced a proliferation of discourse on the subject.

The second two volumes, The Use of Pleasure (Histoire de la sexualite, II: l'usage des plaisirs) and The Care of the Self (Histoire de la sexualité, III: le souci de soi) dealt with the role of sex in Greek and Roman antiquity. Both were published in 1984, the year of Foucault's death, with the second volume being translated in 1985, and the third in 1986. In his lecture series from 1979 to 1980 Foucault extended his analysis of government to its 'wider sense of techniques and procedures designed to direct the behaviour of men', which involved a new consideration of the 'examination of conscience' and confession in early Christian literature. These themes of early Christian literature seemed to dominate Foucault's work, alongside his study of Greek and Roman literature, until the end of his life. However, Foucault's death from AIDS left the work incomplete, and the planned fourth volume of his History of Sexuality on Christianity was never published. The fourth volume was to be entitled Confessions of the Flesh (Les aveux de la chair). The volume was almost complete before Foucault's death and a copy of it is privately held in the Foucault archive. It cannot be published under the restrictions of Foucault's estate. [1]

[edit] Power/Knowledge

Power/Knowledge was a work by Foucault that explains his theory of how power is created and transferred throughout an "economy" of discourse (or conversation). It shows how power is transferred along conduits of dialogue according to the knowledge one has. Barry Allen says that it is only to have a statement pass among others as "known or true". Therefore, knowledge does not necessarily have to be true, but it only needs to be passed on as true for the statement to have an effect on the speakers in the discourse. [1]

[edit] Lectures

From 1970 until his death in 1984, from January to March of each year except 1977, Foucault gave a course of public lectures and seminars weekly at the Collège de France as the condition of his tenure as professor there. All these lectures were tape-recorded, and Foucault's transcripts also survive. In 1997 these lectures began to be published in French with six volumes having appeared so far. So far, four sets of lectures have appeared in English: Psychiatric Power 1973-1974, Abnormal 1974-1975, Society Must Be Defended 1975 - 1976, and The Hermeneutics of the Subject 1981-1982. Notes of Foucault's lectures from UC Berkeley has also appeared as Fearless Speech.

  • Society Must Be Defended (1975-76)

In this course, Foucault analyzed the historical and political discourse of "race struggle".

[edit] Terminology

Terms coined or largely redefined by Foucault, as translated into English:

[edit] Foucault on age of consent

Michel Foucault has also had some participation in political life.

In 1977, while a Commission of the French Parliament discussed a change in the French Penal Code, he signed a petition, along with Jacques Derrida and Louis Althusser, among others, asking for the abrogation of some articles of the law in order to decriminalize all consensual relations between adults and minors below the age of fifteen (the age of consent in France).[citation needed]

These ideas are expressed in his text Sexual Morality and the Law, chapter 16 of his book Politics, Philosophy, Culture – Interviews and other writings 1977-1984.

He believed that the penal system was replacing the punishment of criminal acts by the creation of the figure of an individual dangerous to society (regardless of any actual crime), and predicted that a society of dangers would come, where sexuality would be a kind of roaming danger, a “phantom”. He stressed that this would be possible thanks to the establishment of a “new medical power”, interested in profits coming from the treatment of this “dangerous individual”. [2].

[edit] Criticisms of Foucault

Many thinkers have criticized Foucault, including Charles Taylor, Noam Chomsky, Camille Paglia, Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Nancy Fraser, Pierre Bourdieu, Alasdair MacIntyre (1990), Slavoj Žižek and historian Hayden White, among others. While each of these thinkers takes issue with different aspects of Foucault's work, all of these approaches share the same basic orientation[citation needed]: they argue that Foucault rejects the values and philosophy associated with the Enlightenment while simultaneously secretly relying on them[citation needed]. This criticism is developed, for example, in Derrida (1978). It is claimed that this failure either makes him dangerously nihilistic, or that he cannot be taken seriously in his disavowal of normative values because in fact his work ultimately presupposes them. There has been considerable debate over these criticisms and that they are not universally accepted as valid by all critics.[citation needed] Foucault himself on a number of occasions explained that he believed strongly in human freedom and that his philosophy was a fundamentally optimistic one, as he believed that something positive could always be done no matter how bleak the situation.[citation needed] His work is actually aimed at refuting the position that Reason (or "rationality") is the sole means of guaranteeing truth and the validity of ethical systems.[citation needed] Thus, to criticise Reason is not to reject all notions of truth and ethics as some of these critics claim.[citation needed]

Foucault has also been criticised for his use of historical information, with claims that he frequently misrepresented things, got his facts wrong, extrapolated from insufficient data, or simply made them up entirely. For example, some historians argue that what Foucault called the "Great Confinement" in Madness and Civilization did not in fact occur during the 17th century, but rather in the 19th century,[3] which casts doubt on Foucault's association of the confinement of madmen with the Age of Enlightenment. Despite concerns about his accuracy, Foucault's analysis and methods have influenced a number of other historians such as Roger Chartier and his studies about the "invention of the author."

Madness and Civilization was also famously criticised by Jacques Derrida who took issue with Foucault's reading of René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy. Derrida's criticism led to a break in their friendship and marked the beginning of a fifteen-year–long feud between the two. (At one point, in a 1983 interview with Paul Rabinow, Foucault seemed to criticize Derrida's reading of Plato's Phaedrus in Of Grammatology, considering the writing/speech distinction unimportant.) They eventually reconciled in the early 1980s (reportedly, this reconciliation was due in part to Foucault's defense of Derrida after the latter was alleged to have been caught with marijuana in Prague).

There are also notable exchanges with Lawrence Stone and George Steiner on the subject of Foucault's historical accuracy, as well as a discussion with historian Jacques Leonard concerning Discipline and Punish. Foucault's "histories" have nonetheless drawn considerable attention from mainstream historians as Foucault's works frequently dealt with unique or overlooked historical problems.

[edit] Foucault's changing viewpoint

The study of Foucault's thought is complicated because his ideas developed and changed over time. Just how they changed and at what levels is a matter of some dispute amongst scholars of his work. Some scholars argue that underneath the changes of subject matter there are certain themes that run through all of his work. But as David Gauntlett (2002) suggests:

Of course, there's nothing wrong with Foucault changing his approach; in a 1982 interview, he remarked that 'When people say, "Well, you thought this a few years ago and now you say something else," my answer is… [laughs] "Well, do you think I have worked [hard] all those years to say the same thing and not to be changed?"' (2000: 131). This attitude to his own work fits well with his theoretical approach — that knowledge should transform the self. When asked in another 1982 interview if he was a philosopher, historian, structuralist, or Marxist, Foucault replied 'I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning' (Martin, 1988: 9).

David Gauntlett, Media, Gender and Identity, London: Routledge, 2002)

In a similar vein, Foucault preferred not to claim that he was presenting a coherent and timeless block of knowledge; rather, as he says:

I would like my books to be a kind of tool-box which others can rummage through to find a tool which they can use however they wish in their own area… I would like the little volume that I want to write on disciplinary systems to be useful to an educator, a warden, a magistrate, a conscientious objector. I don't write for an audience, I write for users, not readers.

Michel Foucault (1974), 'Prisons et asiles dans le mécanisme du pouvoir' in Dits et Ecrits, t. II. Paris: Gallimard, 1994, pp. 523-4).

[edit] Intellectual contexts

[edit] Influences on Foucault's work

Thinkers whose work has apparently or admittedly had a strong impact on Foucault's thought include:

  • Louis Althusser — French structuralist Marxist philosopher and Foucault's sometime teacher and mentor.
  • Roland Barthes — French (post) structuralist literary critic who was at one time very close to Foucault.
  • Georges Bataille — French Nietzschean political and aesthetic philosopher.
  • Maurice Blanchot — Literary critic and novelist whose views on non polemical critique had a strong impact on Foucault
  • Jorge Luis Borges — Argentine author of short stories frequently referred to in Foucault's Works
  • Georges Canguilhem — French historian of science.
  • Gilles Deleuze — French philosopher. A great friend and ally of Foucault's in the early 1970s.
  • Georges Dumézil — French structuralist mythologist, known for his reconstruction of Indo-Aryan mythology.
  • Martin Heidegger — German philosopher whose influence was enormous in post-war France. Foucault rarely referred to him, but called him 'the essential philosopher'.
  • Jean Hyppolite — French Hegel scholar and Foucault's sometime khâgne teacher.
  • Immanuel Kant — German philosopher regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of modern Europe and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment.
  • Karl Marx — Marx's influence in French intellectual life was dominant from 1945 through to the late 1970s. Foucault often opposed unthinking forms of Marxist ideology, but was not averse to referring to Marx's own work on occasion.
  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty — French philosopher and sometime teacher of Foucault. Phenomenologist instrumental in popularising Saussure's structuralism for a philosophical audience.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche — German philosopher whose work greatly influenced Foucault's conception of society and power. Towards the end of his life, Foucault stated: "I am a Nietzschean".

[edit] Influence of Foucault's work

Foucault's work is frequently referred to in disciplines as diverse as art, philosophy, history, anthropology, geography, archaeology, communication studies, public relations, rhetoric, cultural studies, linguistics, sociology, education, psychology, literary theory, feminism, queer theory, management studies, the philosophy of science, urban design, museum studies, and many others. Quantitative evidence of the impact of his work can be found in the sheer volume of citations in standard academic journal indexes such as the Social Sciences Citation Index [2] (more than 9000 citations). A keyword search of the Library of Congress catalogue [3] reveals over 750 volumes in a variety of languages relating to his writings, and a search on Google Scholar [4] reveals thousands of citations.

[edit] Trivia

In the famous 1971 debate between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky on Dutch Television, Foucault was asked to wear a bright red wig when giving his presentation (he refused) and was partially paid for the appearance with a chunk of hashish, which Foucault apparently called "Chomsky Hash." Although the conversation was friendly, Chomsky afterward referred to Foucault's views as "completely amoral."[5]

Foucault is mentioned in the title of a song by the Canadian band The Weakerthans, "Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)." The band mentions another famous French philosopher of the era in the line "Thank you for the flowers and the book by Derrida/But I must be heading back to dear Antarctica."

Also 'Archives of Pain' by the Welsh band the Manic Street Preachers, makes references to Foucaults philosophy in it's treatise on the media's facination with serial killers and man's cruelty to man.

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Monographs

Year Original French English Translation
1954 Maladie mentale et personnalité (Paris: PUF, 1954) re-edited as Maladie mentale et psychologie (1995) Mental Illness and Psychology trans. by A. M. Sheridan-Smith, (New York: Harper and Row, 1976)
1961 Histoire de la folie à l'âge classique - Folie et déraison (Paris: Plon, 1961) Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason trans. by R. Howard, (London: Tavistock, 1965) - this is a greatly abridged version
1963 Naissance de la clinique - une archéologie du regard médical (Paris: PUF, 1963) The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception
1963 Raymond Roussel (Paris: Gallimard, 1963) Death and the Labyrinth: the World of Raymond Roussel
1966 Les mots et les choses - une archéologie des sciences humaines (Paris: Gallimard, 1966) The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences
1969 L'archéologie du savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1969) Archaeology of Knowledge) (first three chapters available here)
1971 L'ordre du discours (Paris: Gallimard, 1971) 'The Discourse on Language'; translation appears as an appendix to the Archaeology of Knowledge
1975 Surveiller et punir (Paris: Gallimard, 1975) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
1976-84 Histoire de la sexualité
  • Vol I: La Volonté de savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1976)
  • Vol II: L'Usage des plaisirs (Paris: Gallimard, 1984)
  • Vol III: Le Souci de soi (Paris: Gallimard, 1984)
The History of Sexuality
  • Vol I: The Will to Knowledge
  • Vol II: The Use of Pleasure
  • Vol III: The Care of the Self

[edit] The Collège Courses

Year Original French English Translation
1997 1976-1977 Il faut défendre la société Society Must Be Defended
1999 1974-1975 Les anormaux The Abnormals
2001 1981-1982 L'herméneutique du sujet The Hermeneutics of the Subject
2003 1973-1974 Le pouvoir psychiatrique "Psychiatric Power"
2004 1977-1978 Sécurité, territoire, population "Security, Territory, population"
2004 1978-1979 Naissance de la biopolitique "The Birth of Biopolitics"

[edit] Collaborative works

Year Original French English Translation
1973 Moi, Pierre Rivière, ayant égorgé ma mère, ma soeur et mon frère (Gallimard) I, Pierre Rivere, Having Slaughtered my Mother, my Sister and my Brother (Penguin, 1975)
1978 Herculine Barbin dite Alexina B. (Gallimard, 1978) Herculine Barbin (New York: Pantheon, 1980).
1982 Le Désordre des familles. Lettres de cachet with Arlette Farge (Gallimard) Not yet available in English

[edit] Other books

Year Original French English Translation
1973 "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" This is not a pipe (1991)
1980 Interview with Michel Foucault originally published in Italian, then in French in 1994 Remarks on Marx (1991)
2001 Berkeley lecture series, never published in French Fearless Speech

[edit] Anthologies

In French, almost all of Foucault's shorter writings, published interviews and miscellany have been published in a collection called Dits et écrits, originally published in four volumes in 1994, latterly in only two volumes.

In English, there are a number of overlapping anthologies, which often use conflicting translations of the overlapping pieces, frequently with different titles. Richard Lynch's bibliography of Foucault's shorter work is invaluable for keeping track of these multiple versions. The major collections in English are:

  • Language, counter-memory, practice, ed. Donald F. Bouchard (1977)
  • Power/Knowledge, ed. Colin Gordon (1980)
  • The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (1984)
  • Politics, Philosophy, Culture, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman (1988)
  • Foucault Live (2nd Ed.), ed. Sylvère Lotringer (1996)
  • The Politics of Truth, ed. Sylvère Lotringer (1997)
  • Ethics : subjectivity and truth (Essential Works Vol. 1), ed.Paul Rabinow (1997)
  • Aesthetics, Method, Epistemology (Essential Works Vol.2), ed. James D. Faubion (1998)
  • Power (Essential Works Vol. 3), ed. James D. Faubion (2000)
  • The Essential Foucault, eds. Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose (2003)

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Michel Foucault, edited by Jeremy R. Carrette (1999). Religion and culture: Michel Foucault. ISBN 0-415-92362-X. 
  2. ^ Michel Foucault, edited by Lawrence D. Kritzman (1988). Politics, Philosophy, Culture – Interviews and other writings 1977-1984. ISBN 0-415-90082-4. 
  3. ^ Pierre Morel and Claude Quétel (1985). Les Médecines de la Folie. ISBN 2-01-011281-4. 

The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality By Graham Burchell et al

[edit] References

  • Afary, Janet; & Anderson, Kevin B. Foucault and the Iranian Revolution. (University of Chicago Press, 2005) - Details Foucault's trips to Iran, and publishes his essays on Iran in English for the first time.
  • Carrette, Jeremy R (ed.). Religion and culture: Michel Foucault. (Routledge, 1999).
  • Derrida, Jacques. Cogito and the History of Madness. In Alan Bass (tr.), Writing and Difference, pp. 31-63. (Chicago University Press, 1978)
  • Dreyfus, Herbert L. and Paul Rabinow. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, 2nd edition. (University of Chicago Press, 1983)
  • Eribon, Didier. Michel Foucault (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).Considered in France, according to Le Monde, as the best biography of Foucault.
  • Eribon Didier. Insult and the Making of the Gay Self (Duke University Press, 2004). The third part - about 150 pages of this book - is devoted to Foucault and a reinterpretation of his life and work.
  • Foucault, Michel. Sexual Morality and the Law (originally published as La loi de la pudeur), is the Chapter 16 of Politics, Philosophy, Culture (see “Notes”), pp. 271-285.
  • Hoy, D. (Ed.). Foucault. (Oxford, Blackwell, 1986)
  • Hicks, Stephen R. C. Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Scholargy Publishing, 2004)
  • Macey, David. The Lives of Michel Foucault (London: Hutchison, 1993) - This is the most detailed biography of Foucault.
  • MacIntyre, Alasdair (1990). Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
  • Miller, James. The Passion of Michel Foucault (London: HarperCollins, 1993) - A number of scholars have expressed reservations in relation to some of the sensational claims made in this biography.
  • Smart, B. Foucault. (Chichester, Ellis Horwood, 1985)

[edit] See also

[edit] Works available online

[edit] External links

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NAME Foucault, Michel
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Foucault, Paul-Michel
SHORT DESCRIPTION French philosopher
DATE OF BIRTH October 15, 1926
PLACE OF BIRTH Poitiers, France
DATE OF DEATH June 25, 1984
PLACE OF DEATH Paris, France