Foucault, Michel (19261984)
Dictionary Home
AnthroBase Home
Bookmark, cite or print this page

French philosopher and social historian; a leading member of the poststructuralist movement. His studies of modernity focus on deviance and the control of deviance (sexuality, crime, madness), and on discourse. In his famous study of the Western European prison system (1975), he emphasizes the technologies of control that are designed to discipline prison inmates, and generalizes these conclusions to many other institutions in Capitalist society, including schools and work-places. Through discipline, power is inscribed in the body, by means of quasi-military exercises that partition up and specify bodily movements in space and time. This part of Foucault's work is reminiscent of Bourdieu's writings on habitus. In his work on discourse and discursive formations, Foucault describes the mechanisms through which themes of discourse (discursive objects) become established and "real" in public communication - a prime example is the "creation" of sexuality as a theme of public debate in the 19th century (1978). In order to understand the genesis and development of discursive themes, Foucault recommends that one engage in an "archaeology of knowledge". Foucault's opus is large and varied, and includes such jewels as the short deconstructive essay on Magritte (Ceci n'est pas une pipe, 1973).

Sample quote.

To browse texts on AnthroBase dealing with Michel Foucault, see: