Michael Foucault (1926 - 1984)
by Cozette Blumenfeld
Paul-Michel Doria Foucault was a French philosopher, writer, activist, and literary critic and theorist. Foucault’s work centers around the relationship between knowledge and power, and how societal institutions use these as a means of control, specifically biopower, or political technology that allows for the control of entire populations. He is considered a post-structuralist--the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations--and a postmodernist--an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward what it describes as the grand narratives and ideologies associated with modernism--but Foucault rejected these labels. Born into an upper class family in Poitiers, France, he was educated in Philosophy and Psychology at one of the most prestigious schools in France, and after being a cultural diplomat abroad, he published his first book The History of Madness (1961). This book, along with The Birth of the Clinic (1963) and The Order of Things (1966) published during his time working at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, represent his work in structuralism. Foucault went on to publish The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), Discipline and Punish (1975), and The History of Sexuality (1976), works that detail the role of power in society through archaeological and genetic methods. He also became active in various left-wing groups, particularly involved in human rights abuses and prison reform. Foucault was foundational to queer theory and biopolitics. Foucault died in Paris in 1984 at the age of 54 from complications due to HIV/AIDS, the first public figure in France to do so.
Foucault, Michel. History of Madness. Taylor and Francis, 2013.
Foucault, Michel. The Birth of the Clinic: an Archaeology of Medical Perception. Routledge, 2010.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. Penguin Classics, 2020.
Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: an Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Routledge, 2010.
Gutting, Gary. Foucault: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2005.
McWhorter, Ladelle. Bodies and Pleasures: Foucault and the Politics of Sexual Normalization. Indiana University Press, 1999.
Oksala, Johanna. How to Read Foucault. Norton, 2008.