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Michel Foucault

Born Paul-Michel Foucault Oct 15 1926 in Poitiers, France.

He grew up during WWII, being aged 14 during the Nazi
After the war Foucault gained entry into the prestigious cole
Normale Suprieure, the traditional gateway to an academic
career in the humanities in France.
During his time at ENS he suffered acute depression. During this
time he chased another student with a knife, attempted suicide
and also revealed his homosexuality. In this period he saw a
psychiatrist and subsequently became fascinated by Psychology
and began reading Freud and the Kinsey reports.
Gaining a degree in psychology along with a degree in
Philosophy, he became obsessed with Rorschach tests and when
he began teaching the subject, often subjected his students to
French Philosopher and Historian
Professor of History of systems of Thought ,College De France.
Post- Structuralist and Post-Modernist.

Foucaults writings
of Knowledge

Power of

of self

Major Works:
1954 Mental Illness and Psychology
1955 Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the
Age of Reason
1963 The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical
1966 The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human
1969 Archaeology of Power
1975 Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
1976 The History of Sexuality:
Vol I: The Will to Knowledge
Vol II: The Use of Pleasure
Vol III: The Care of the Self

Madness and Civilization

Foucault describes how, as leprosy disappeared in society,

madness took over the position.
Places where once the sick would be were desolate and sterile.
Towards the end of the middle ages all the leprosy houses that
were built all over Europe had no inmates.
In the 17th Century, Foucault describes what he calls the Great
Confinement. This was when one out one hundred inhabitants of
the city was confined.
Madmen were put into this regime for a century and a half.
In the 18th century, madness became to be seen as the opposite
of Reason.
The mad seemed to become almost animal like, and were treated
like this.
It was not until the 19th Century , Madness became a mental

Discipline and Punish

This book is a study through time of the soul and body in political,
judicial and scientific fields, particularly in relation to punishment
and power over, and within the body.
Foucault charts the shift in punishment from the spectacle of public
torture before the 1800s to obsessive over-regulation in prisons.
Foucault begins by comparing a public execution from 1757 to an
account of prison rules from 1837.
Disappearance of torture.
Punishment as spectacle disappeared; the exhibition of prisoner
sand the public execution ended.
The certainty of punishment, and not its horror, deters one from
committing a crime.
. Executions were made painless by drugs.
Deprive the prisoner from rights.

Public --------------- Hidden place

The consequences
o Punishment moves from everyday
perception to abstract consciousness
o The role of body In punishment
o Replacement of executioner with technician,
doctors, chaplains, psychiatrist and
o Punish require knowledge
o Panopticism, surveillance, examination,

The History of Sexuality

Written in three volumes as an attempt to

understand the experience of sexuality in modern
Western culture.
The project inquired into sexuality, pleasure and
friendship in the Ancient, Christian and Modern
Volume one: The History of Sexuality: An
Introduction challenges the repressive hypothesis.
why do we say we are sexually repressed?
What led us to show that sex is something we hide?
And why do w talk about sex all the time?

Key Concepts

Power and Institutions: Foucaults work is largely concerned with the relation between social structures and
institutions and the individual. The relationship between the individual and the institution is where we find
power operating most clearly.
Archaeology: The Archaeology of the human sciences investigates how the concept of humanity itself had
evolved and become an object of our knowledge. The term Archaeology, meaning the unearthing of the
hidden structure of knowledge particular to a certain period; in simpler terms, the unconscious prejudgements
that limit our thoughts.
Biopower: Refers to the practice of modern states and their regulation of their subjects through "an explosion
of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations".
The term first appeared in The Will to Knowledge, Foucaults first volume of The History of Sexuality. In both
Foucaults work and the work of later theorists it has been used to refer to practices of public health,
regulation of heredity, and risk regulation.
Episteme: The underground grid or network which allows thought to organize itself. Each historical period
had its own episteme. It limits the totality of experience, knowledge and truth, and governs each science in
one period.
Govermentality: The analysis of who can govern and who is governed, but also the means by which that
shaping of someone elses activities is achieved, i.e, the psychologist talks about the madman and the doctor
about the patients, but never the other way round, because what they have to say has already been ruled
irrelevant. This idea links to knowledge and power.
Disciplinary society: The way power operates in different forms of regime at particular historical periods, for
example, the way a crime may be punished today compared to previous periods in history and how they
differ; from public execution and spectacle, to confinement and surveillance. This idea also relates to the
mechanisms of power.

Key themes of Foucaults