Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault stencil, Lyon, France by biphop

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a French social and historical thinker best known for his contribution to (what has been called) poststructuralism.

Foucault was a homosexual and experienced some friction over this. Succumbing to AIDS, his cultural and intellectual legacy is considerable.

Some argue that Foucault’s view is too bleak, placing undue emphasis on social power as the sole force which creates socially relative discourses and discursive practices. There isn’t too much room for “love and compassion” as a driving social force in Foucault’s analyses, although he does address this and related ideas from the perspective of deconstruction.

He read voraciously. Legend has it that each day he would return home from the library carrying a stack of books that he’d pour over that very night.

Foucault says that he had little interest in the ideas of another French thinker, Jean-Paul Sartre. But the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche on his ideas is well documented.

Foucault’s major works are Madness and Civilization (1961), The Birth of the Clinic (1963), The Order of Things (1966), Discipline and Punish (1975) and History of Sexuality (1976).

His later views about the creative power of discourse are perhaps best summed up in a series of interviews, published the book Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977 (1980). And as Shaheryar Ali suggests, he had a profound influence on what was to become the ‘New Historicism’ » See in context

Foucault’s ideas are too numerous and comlicated to cover in a short entry. But searching within this site, using any of the following keywords will help to demonstrate the depth and breadth of his thought: Archaeology, Athleticism, Bourdieu (Pierre), Counter-Discourse, Deviance, Discourse, DSM-IV-TR, False Consciousness, Hegel (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich), History, Hobbes (Thomas), Illness, Language, Madness, Marx (Karl), Meme, Myth, Postmodernism, Sign, Szasz (Thomas)

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