Michel Foucault

Author: Michel Foucault

Profile: Paul-Michel Foucault also better known as Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist, historian of ideas and literary critic. He was born in an upper middle class family in Poitiers, France and died in Paris, France.

He studied at the Lycee Henri-IV at the Ecole Normal Superieure. He earned degrees in psychology and philosophy at the University of Paris. He worked abroad as a cultural diplomat for many years, then went to France and published his debut major book, The History of Madness. Between 1960 and 1966 he worked at the University of Clemont-Ferrand.

The other institutions he attended include the Uppsala University, Universite de Lille, University of Warsaw, Institut Francais Hamburg, Tunis University, University of Paris VIII, College de France, University of Buffalo, New York University and University of California, Berkeley.

In his first few books, a historiographical technique was exemplified called archaeology, which the author had developed.

Foucault was a lecturer from 1966 to 1968 at the University of Tunis after which he went to France and became head of the philosophical department at the new experimental University of Paris VIII.

He was admitted to the College de France in 1970, for a membership which remained with him till he died. Foucault actively participated in left-wing groups involving himself in campaigns for penal reform and against, human rights abuses and racism. Genealogical and archaeological methods were developed by him which emphasized how power plays a role in society, in his two books, The History of Sexuality and Discipline and Punish.

After developing complications of HIV/AIDS, Foucault breathed his last in Paris. In France he was the first public figure to die from complications caused by HIV/AIDS. The AIDES charity was founded in his memory by Daniel Defert, his partner.

Writing style: Foucault’s main areas of interest include epistemology, history of ideas, philosophy of technology, historical epistemology, philosophy of literature and political philosophy.

He is well known for his notable ideas including disciplinary institution, archaeology, biopower (biopolitics), genealogy, disciplinary institution, governmentality, discourse analysis, gaze, heterotopias, power-knowledge, limit-experience, discursive formation, subjectivation and panopticism. The relationship between knowledge and power are addressed primarily in his theories by Foucault and methods in which they are used as a form of social control through institutions in society. Academics working in anthropology, communication studies, cultural studies, literary theory, critical theory, sociology, feminism and criminology, have been influenced by his thoughts.

Published Texts:

1961 – The History of Madness

1963 – The Birth of the Clinic

1966 – The Order of Things

1969 – The Archaeology of Knowledge

1975 – Discipline and Punish

1976 – The History of Sexuality


Awards and Acknowledgements:

I948 – Received the license in philosophy

1950 – Received the license in psychology

1952 – Awarded a diploma in psychopathology

1950s – Read the works of the German philosophers Heidegger and Nietzsche which had a significant impact on his later works.