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Power/knowledge

Neither was he interested in having the postmodern label applied to his own work, saying he preferred to discuss how "modernity" was defined. Foucault resisted biography on the grounds that he was both a constantly evolving personality and that publicly he exists through his work. Of this he wrote "Do not ask me who I am and do not ask me to remain the same. His father, Paul Foucault, was an eminent surgeon and hoped his son would join him in the profession.

Foucault later dropped 'Paul' from his name for reasons which are not entirely clear. His early education was a mix of success and mediocrity until he attended the Jesuit College Saint-Stanislaus where he excelled.

Duplicate citations

During this period, Poitiers was part of Vichy France and later came under German occupation. The Ecole Normale Superieure Foucault's personal life during the Ecole Normale was difficult- he suffered from acute depression, even attempting suicide. He was taken to see a psychiatrist. Perhaps because of this, Foucault became fascinated with psychology. Thus, in addition to his licence degree in philosophy he also earned a licence in psychology, which was at that time a very new qualification in France, and was involved in the clinical arm of the discipline where he was exposed to thinkers such as Ludwig Binswanger.

Like many 'normaliens' , Foucault joined the French Communist Party from to 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. Unlike most party members, Foucault never actively participated in his cell. Early career Foucault passed his agregation in After a brief period lecturing at the Ecole Normale, he took up a position at the University of Lille, where from to he taught psychology. In Foucault published his first book, Maladie mentale et personnalite, a work which he would later disavow.


  • The Archæology of Knowledge.
  • Discipline and Punish.
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  • Explainer: the ideas of Foucault;
  • The Archaeology of Knowledge by Michel Foucault.

It soon became apparent that Foucault was not interested in a teaching career, and he undertook a lengthy exile from France. In Foucault served France as a cultural delegate to the University of Uppsala in Sweden a position arranged for him by Georges Dumezil, who was to become a friend and mentor. Foucault returned to France in 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 non-monogamous partnership for the rest of his life. In he earned his doctorate by submitting two theses as is customary in France : a "major" thesis entitled Folie et deraison: Histoire De La Folie a L'Age Classique and a 'secondary' thesis which involved a translation and commentary on Kant's Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. Raymond Roussel , and a reissue of his 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 In he published The Archaeology of Knowledge - a response to his critics- in Post Foucault the activist In the aftermath of , 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 Foucault was elected to France's most prestigious academic body, the College 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 , with whom Foucault became very loosely associated.

This fed into a marked politicization of Foucault's work, with a book, 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. The late Foucault In the late s political activism in France tailed off with the disillusionment of many if not most Maoists.

Several of them underwent a complete reversal in ideology, becoming the so-called New Philosophers, and often cited Foucault as their major influence, a status about which Foucault had mixed feelings. Foucault in this period began a mammoth project to write a History of Sexuality, which he was never to complete. The second and third volumes did not appear for another eight years, and they surprised readers by their relatively traditional style, subject matter classical Greek and Latin texts and approach, particularly Foucault's concentration on the subject, a concept he had previously tended to denigrate.

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 and especially at UC Berkeley. In Foucault made two tours of Iran, undertaking extensive interviews with political protagonists in support of the new revolutionary Islamic government there. His many essays on Iran were published in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, but remained little known to Foucault's admirers in the English and French-speaking nations until they were published in English in These essays caused some controversy, with some commentators arguing that Foucault was insufficiently critical of the new regime.

The English edition of Madness and Civilization is an abridged version of Folie et deraison: Histoire de la folie a l'age classique, originally published in 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.

1. Biographical Sketch

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.

The Birth Of the Clinic Foucault's second major book, Naissance de la clinique: une archeologie du regard medical in French was published in in France, and translated to English in 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". Foucault had preferred L'Ordre des Choses for the original French title, but changed the title to suit the wishes of his editor, Pierre Nora. The book opened with an extended discussion of Diego Velazquez'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. 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'. The Archaeology Of Knowledge Published in , this volume was Foucault's main excursion into methodology. 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.

Michel Foucault Books - Biography and List of Works - Author of 'Abnormal'

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. 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 entities 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. Foucault's posture toward the statements is radical. Not only does he bracket out issues of truth; 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 conditions of existence for meaning. In order to show the principles of meaning 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. Foucault often argues against the idea that there is a single foundation for knowledge or a single explanation for all human activity and social organization. Instead it is a question of the interrelation of a complex and multilayered range of elements. Knowledge starts with rules and constraints, not freedom.

Freedom is also a condition for the exercise of power. It can mean glance, gaze, look which do not have the abstract connotations that the word has in French. Foucault uses the word to refer to the fact that it is not just the object of knowledge which is constructed but also the knower. Clinical medicine at the end of the eighteenth century set much store on visibility — on looking and seeing and on visible symptoms.

Genealogy is the term Foucault uses to describe his historical method during the s. He later expanded his definition to encompass the techniques and procedures which are designed to govern the conduct of both individuals and populations at every level not just the administrative or political level. This is the order underlying any given culture at any given period of history. The episteme which describes scientific forms of knowledge is a subset of this. He argues that what is most human about man is his history. He discusses the notions of history, change and historical method at some length at various points in his career.

He uses history as a means of demonstrating that there is no such thing as historical necessity, that things could have been and could be otherwise. Foucault also linked the death of man to the death of God. He sees identity as a form of subjugation and a way of exercising power over people and preventing them from moving outside fixed boundaries. Foucault argues that the individual is not something that needs to be liberated rather the individual is the closely monitored product of relations between power and knowledge.

Foucault notes that institutions are a way of freezing particular relations of power so that a certain number of people are advantaged. In , Foucault wrote a controversial series of reports on the Iranian revolution. Feldman, No. Foucault defines morality as a set of values and rules for action which are proposed to individuals and groups by diverse institutions such as the family, education systems or churches.

He also argues that discourse does not underlie all cultural forms. Forms such as art and music are not discursive. On the ways of writing history. In Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology. Volume Two. Robert Hurley and others. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Allen Lane, Penguin, p. Foucault argues that contemporary society is a society based on medical notions of the norm, rather than on legal notions of conformity to codes and the law.

There is a insoluble tension between a system based on law and a system based on medical norms in our legal and medical institutions. The Panopticon, was a design for a prison produced by Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century which grouped cells around a central viewing tower. Although the prison was never actually built the idea was used as a model for numerous institutions including some prisons.

Foucault uses this as a metaphor for the operation of power and surveillance in contemporary society. Foucault argues that if phenomenology seeks to discover an authentic, founding subject through the analysis of everyday life, he, on the other hand, is aiming at the dissolution of notions of a fixed subject, so that he and others can always be different. Foucault changed his mind many times about the role played by philosophy and the philosopher or intellectual.

Michel Foucault

One thing that remained constant however, was that philosophy should be firmly rooted in a historical context. Foucault frequently emphasized that philosophy should deal with the question of what is happening right now. He also defines the task of philosophy as being not a way of reflecting on what is true and what is false, but instead a way of reflecting on our relations to truth and how we should conduct ourselves. Foucault argues a number of points in relation to power and offers definitions that are directly opposed to more traditional liberal and Marxist theories of power.

It is important to note that Foucault refined his definitions of power over time and his views are not homogeneous. Even now, however, remnants of sovereign power still remain in tension with disciplinary power. This idea of politically organizing the day to day conduct of the population is borrowed from the metaphor of the care of a shepherd for his flock and originated in Egyptian, Assyrian, Mesopotamian and Hebrew cultures. The knowledge gathered in this way further reinforces exercises of power. Foucault explains that he is more interested in writing a history of problems rather than a history of solutions or in writing the comprehensive history of a period or an institution.

Foucault criticizes the notion that Reason is synonymous with truth and that it offers the solution to all social problems. He notes that repressive systems of social control are usually highly rational. The notions of rationality and irrationality, as they were posed by the Frankfurt School, became a fashionable topic of discussion in the late s.

In this context Foucault notes the dangers of describing Reason as the enemy and the equal danger of claiming that any criticism of rationality leads to irrationality. However, recent publications of his lectures reveal fairly developed accounts of the history of Christianity both as a social institution Church and in terms of its internal conceptual apparatus sacraments, the division between clerics and the laity and so on.

Foucault also examines resistances to the pastoral power exercised by the Church such as mysticism, asceticism, and various Gnostic and other heresies. Foucault suggests that there are a number of ways in which the exercise of power can be resisted. He argues at one point that resistance is co-extensive with power, namely as soon as there is a power relation, there is a possibility of resistance.

If there is no such thing as a society without relations of power, this does not mean that existing power relations cannot be criticized. There is always the possibility of resistance no matter how oppressive the system. Foucault was interested in science for a number of reasons. With the Enlightenment, scientific reason became the privileged way of accessing truth. Reversing this argument he suggests instead that never before had there been so much attention focused on sexuality and the nineteenth century in fact saw the emergence of an enormous proliferation of knowledge and the development of multiple mechanisms of control in relation to sexuality.

He describes the conflict between spirituality and theology as being the important historical issue rather than a conflict between spirituality and science.

Foucault also recasts the standard Church versus State opposition as instead an opposition between pastoral and sovereign forms of power. Foucault notes a number of differences in the ways pre-Cartesian and post-Cartesian systems approached the problem of acquiring knowledge and the notion of self-transformation. Foucault argues that the State is a codification of relations of power at all levels across the social body. Foucault emphasizes that the State is not the primary source of power.

Paris: Gallimard Seuil, pp. Structuralism was a philosophical movement which achieved its heyday in the s. Structuralism also rejected the whole notion of an unchanging and universal human subject or human nature as being at the centre and origin of all action, history, existence and meaning. But where Foucault parted company with the structuralists, and one of the major reasons for his insistence that he was not associated with the movement, was his rejection of the ahistorical formalism often adopted by those espousing structuralist method.

The subject is an entity which is self-aware and capable of choosing how to act. Foucault was consistently opposed to nineteenth century and phenomenological notions of a universal and timeless subject which was at the source of how one made sense of the world, and which was the foundation of all thought and action. The problem with this conception of the subject according to Foucault and other thinkers in the s, was that it fixed the status quo and attached people to specific identities that could never be changed.

Foucault often uses the words techniques and technologies interchangeably, although sometimes techniques tend to be specific and localized and technologies more general collections of specific techniques. He argues that terrorism is counter-productive even on its own terms, since it merely entrenches those attacked further in their own world view. Those who govern, likewise unsettled, then have an excuse to introduce stricter social and legal regulation as a result.

Michel Foucault: Studies of Power and Sport

He argues that truth is an event which takes place in history. These things only acquire a real and changing existence as the result of specific historical activities and reflection. Foucault argued that designing a social system to replace the current one merely produced another system which was still part of the current problem.