Tuesday, 4 September 2012


Born in France in 1926 into a wealthy middle-class family, Michel Foucault became an influential thinker in philosophy and sociological schools of thought in the 1960s.

In 1961, Foucault wrote his first major book titled Madness and Civilisation whereby he studied how madness (now thought as, as mental illness) was defined and dealt with from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century. Following this publish came Birth of the Clinic (1963) which deals with what Foucault refers to as the 'clinical gaze'. He refers to the idea that when one becomes ill, suddenly they cease to be a person and instead become an example of an illness. In 1966 he wrote the book The Order of Things where he introduced his idea of changing conditions of discourse and the shifts occurring between one episteme to another. Following on from this highly influential book came The Archaeology of Knowledge (1972) which introduces the idea of the statement as being a functional unit; part of a technique used in the production of human subjects and institutions. Then in 1975 Foucault wrote the book Discipline and Punish where he looked at ideas disciplinary power in the form of surveillance from both hierarchical forces as well as the individual themselves. It is here that Foucault looks at Jeremy Bentham's idea of the Panopticon whereby the fear of being caught breaking the rules governs the self to stay within accordance of social values and norms. Foucault then went on to write the three volumes of The History of Sexuality (A Will to Knowledge [1976]; The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self [1984]) before his death in 1984. In these volumes, Foucault illustrates that sexual conversation and knowledge is determined by what is regulated, forbidden and prohibited by social norms and expectations.

In 1984 Foucault died of AIDS-related illnesses at age 57. His ideas however remain some of the most influential and most-cited in contemporary philosophical and sociological theories. 

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