Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault

Synopsis

In investigating the major works of Michel Foucault, Barry Smart focuses on the analysis of the relations of power and knowledge and modes of objectification through which human beings are made subjects; and addresses controversial issues concerning the state and resistance to power. The development of Foucault's work from the early text on madness to the final studies of sexuality, and the question of the work's methodological value and status as a form of critical analysis, are reviewed comprehensively. Barry Smart's detailed discussion of the contribution of Foucault's work to social analysis and research will promote fresh interest in the stimulating originality of Foucault's project.

Excerpt

Like so many important social thinkers of the 20th century, Michel Foucault always evaded the sort of neat labelling which would place him firmly in one or another of the established social science disciplines. He would, for example, most certainly have rejected the notion that he was a sociologist-'key' or otherwise. Yet, as with Marx and Freud-or more recently the critical theorist Herbert Marcuse-the important consideration is not whether the title or institutional position of sociologist is claimed, but whether the impact of the work in question has been significant within sociology. It is of course too early to be sure that Foucault's impact on sociology will be as long-lasting as that of Marx, Freud or even Marcuse-but there can be little doubt that his approach and his subject matter were, and will continue to be, of fundamental significance to sociology. In particular, his concern with the development of individuality in all of its modern forms, and especially its constitution within a web of power relations, marks his work with a stamp that is unmistakably sociological in its import. This is not to categorize Foucault as some sort of undercover or even unconscious sociologist-for he carefully delineated his analyses from all conventional intellectual categories-but to recognize that his main themes touch a number of central issues and controversies in sociology. As Barry

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