Foucault, Michel

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Foucault, Michel

Michel Foucault, 1926–84, French philosopher and historian. He was professor at the Collège de France (1970–84). He is renowned for historical studies that reveal the sometimes morally disturbing power relations inherent in social practices. Influenced by Nietzsche, he called these studies, such as Madness and Civilization (1961, tr. 1970), "genealogies." Foucault also analyzed systems of knowledge, i.e., individual disciplines in science, such as natural history and economics. He aimed through this "archeology" of knowledge to uncover the unconscious rules guiding such systems and thereby to understand their relations to one another. See his Archeology of Knowledge (1969, tr. 1972) and The Order of Things (1966, tr. 1970). In his last writings, including the History of Sexuality, vol. 2 (1984, tr. 1985), Foucault studied what he called "ethics," namely the self's relationship to itself.

See biography by D. Macey (1993); P. Rabinow, ed., Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1988 (1997–); H. L. Dreyfus and P. Rabinow, Michel Foucault (1982); R. Michel, Foucault (1985); D. R. Shumway, Michel Foucault (1992); L. McNay, Foucault: A Critical Introduction (1994); C. G. Prado, Starting with Foucault: An Introduction to Genealogy (1995, repr. 2000); S. J. Hekman, ed., Feminist Interpretations of Michel Foucault (1996); C. Horroacks and Z. Jevtic, Introducing Foucault (1997); P. Barker, Michel Foucault: An Introduction (1998); A. L. Brown, On Foucault: A Critical Introduction (2000); G. Danaher et al., Understanding Foucault (2000); K. A. Robinson, Michel Foucault and the Freedom of Thought (2001); R. M. Strozier, Foucault, Subjectivity, and Identity (2001); P. Veyne, Foucault: His Thought, His Character (2010).

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