This book, by the author of Madness and Civilization, has been hailed as the most important French contribution to philosophy since Sartre. Its thesis is that "man" has only quite recently emerged as an object of our knowledge: our present concept of man is the result of a mutation within our culture. Michael Foucault studies this mutation, from the seventeenth century onward, cutting across numerous disciplines, first with a study of the classical "human sciences," and then with an analysis of their nineteenth-century successors - philology, biology, and political economy.
The result is, indeed, an archaeology of the human sciences, an analysis of their foundations, their substrata, a reflection on what makes them possible now: an archaeology of contemporary modes of thought. It is also a critical reflection, for the day may not be far off when conditions will change once again, "man" will disappear, and a new mode of thought will come into being.