Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, philologist and literary critic. His theories addressed the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. Though often cited as apost-structuralist and postmodernist, Foucault rejected these labels, preferring to present his thought as a critical history of modernity. His thought has been highly influential both for academic and for activist groups, such as within post-anarchism.

Born in Poitiers, France, into an upper-middle-class family, Foucault was educated at the Lycée Henri-IV and then at the École Normale Supérieure, where he developed an interest in philosophy and came under the influence of his tutors Jean Hyppolite and Louis Althusser. After several years as a cultural diplomat abroad, he returned to France and published his first major book,The History of Madness. After obtaining work between 1960 and 1966 at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, he produced two more significant publications, The Birth of the Clinic and The Order of Things, which displayed his increasing involvement with structuralism, a theoretical movement in social anthropology from which he later distanced himself. These first three histories exemplified a historio graphical technique Foucault was developing called “archaeology”.


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