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Michel Foucault (1926–1984)

Author of Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

350+ Works 43,975 Members 225 Reviews 118 Favorited

About the Author

Michel Foucault was born on October 15, 1926, in Poitiers, France, and was educated at the Sorbonne, in Paris. He taught at colleges all across Europe, including the Universities of Lill, Uppsala, Hamburg, and Warsaw, before returning to France. There he taught at the University of Paris and the show more College of France, where he served as the chairman of History of Systems of Thought until his death. Regarded as one of the great French thinkers of the twentieth century, Foucault's interest was in the human sciences, areas such as psychiatry, language, literature, and intellectual history. He made significant contributions not just to the fields themselves, but to the way these areas are studied, and is particularly known for his work on the development of twentieth-century attitudes toward knowledge, sexuality, illness, and madness. Foucault's initial study of these subjects used an archaeological method, which involved sifting through seemingly unrelated scholarly minutia of a certain time period in order to reconstruct, analyze, and classify the age according to the types of knowledge that were possible during that time. This approach was used in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, for which Foucault received a medal from France's Center of Scientific Research in 1961, The Birth of the Clinic, The Order of Things, and The Archaeology of Knowledge. Foucault also wrote Discipline and Punishment: The Birth of the Prison, a study of the ways that society's views of crime and punishment have developed, and The History of Sexuality, which was intended to be a six-volume series. Before he could begin the final two volumes, however, Foucault died of a neurological disorder in 1984. (Bowker Author Biography) An outstanding philosopher and intellectual figure on the contemporary scene, Foucault has been influential in both philosophy and the recent interpretation of literature. Trained in philosophy and psychology, he was named to a chair at the College de France in 1970. He also taught in various departments of French literature as a visiting professor in the United States. Until 1968 he was a major figure in the critical movement known as structuralism, a method of intellectual inquiry based on the idea that all human behavior and achievement arises from an innate ability to organize, or "structure," human experiences. In both The Order of Things (1966) and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) he was interested in the organization of human knowledge and in the transformations of intellectual categories. His influential history of the prison, Discipline and Punish (1975), contributed to the study of the relationship of power and various forms of knowledge, as did the several volumes of an unfinished History of Sexuality published just before his death. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Michel Foucault vers l’âge de 18 ans (1944)


Works by Michel Foucault

The Foucault Reader (1984) 1,871 copies
The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) 1,135 copies
History of Madness (1972) 1,079 copies
This Is Not a Pipe (1973) 774 copies
The Order of Discourse (1971) 391 copies
The Courage of Truth (2009) 241 copies
The Essential Foucault (2003) 202 copies
The Politics of Truth (1997) 178 copies
Fearless Speech (1989) 175 copies
Microfísica do Poder (1969) 157 copies
Foucault: A Critical Reader (1986) — Author — 119 copies
The History of Sexuality 1-3 (1978) 108 copies
Religion and Culture (1999) 105 copies
El pensamiento del afuera (1986) 40 copies
Dream and Existence (1986) 29 copies
Speech Begins after Death (2013) 28 copies
Philosophie : Anthologie (2004) 23 copies
Nietzsche, Freud, Marx (1981) 22 copies
La vita degli uomini infami (1990) 22 copies
Was ist Kritik? (1992) 20 copies
Analytik der Macht (2005) 17 copies
Power, Truth, Strategy (1979) 17 copies
Sobre la Ilustración (2003) 16 copies
Schriften zur Literatur (1974) 15 copies
Dits et écrits, 1954-1988 (1994) 12 copies
Diskursernas kamp (2008) 11 copies
Obras esenciales (2010) 11 copies
Scritti letterari (1996) 10 copies
Le beau danger (2011) 9 copies
Foucault/Nietzsche (1998) 8 copies
A mulher / Os rapazes (1997) 7 copies
OEuvres (Tome 2) (2015) 6 copies
Language to Infinity (1996) 6 copies
Özne ve İktidar (2000) 5 copies
Le Discours philosophique (2023) 5 copies
Illuminismo e critica (1997) 5 copies
Der Staub und die Wolke (1981) 5 copies
Parhaat (2014) 4 copies
La imposible prisión debate con Michel Foucault (1980) — Author — 4 copies
Buyuk Yabanci (2015) 4 copies
Saber y verdad (1985) 4 copies
Taccuino persiano (1998) 4 copies
La sexualité (2018) 4 copies
Follia e psichiatria (2006) 4 copies
Diálogo (2007) — Author — 3 copies
Deleuze 3 copies
absolute Michel Foucault (2009) 3 copies
The Japan Lectures (2023) 3 copies
Las redes del poder (2014) 3 copies
Un peligro que seduce (2012) 3 copies
Bir Aile Cinayeti (2007) 2 copies
Etica Del Pensamiento La (2013) 2 copies
Alternative alla prigione (2021) 2 copies
Disparen Sobre Focault (1999) 2 copies
Archives de l'infamie (2009) 2 copies
The Discourse on Language (1971) 2 copies
Dossier 2 copies
My secret life (extraits) (1977) 2 copies
Il sogno (2003) 1 copy
Omsorgen for seg selv (2020) 1 copy
DIAL CTICA y libertad (1976) 1 copy
Le débat 1 copy
Foucault 1 copy
Guzel Tehlike (2013) 1 copy
Foucault 1 copy
Rád diskurzu (2006) 1 copy
Gizakiaren heriotzaz (1998) 1 copy
Kjødets bekjennelser (2020) 1 copy
Nadzorowac i karac NW (2020) 1 copy
Panopticism 1 copy

Associated Works

Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1972) — Preface, some editions — 2,227 copies
The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1874) — Introduction, some editions — 959 copies
Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics (1982) — Afterword — 431 copies
Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation (1984) — Contributor — 227 copies
Criticism: Major Statements (1964) — Contributor — 223 copies
The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (1991) — Contributor — 205 copies
Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1974) — Translator, some editions — 202 copies
After Philosophy: End or Transformation? (1986) — Contributor — 120 copies
The Modern Historiography Reader: Western Sources (2008) — Contributor — 37 copies
Foucault and Neoliberalism (2014) — Author — 37 copies
What Is Gender Nihilism? A Reader — Contributor — 9 copies
Michel Foucault (2011) — Contributor — 8 copies
Le Débat, numéro 27 (novembre 1983) (1983) — Contributor — 1 copy
Fiction 2 : Del Soggetto (1977) — Contributor — 1 copy
季刊 審美 第七号 — Contributor — 1 copy


20th century (457) continental philosophy (175) critical theory (661) criticism (153) cultural studies (265) discourse (114) epistemology (191) Foucault (1,394) France (342) French (628) French literature (176) French philosophy (168) gender (126) history (1,869) knowledge (142) literary criticism (151) literary theory (136) medicine (120) Michel Foucault (239) non-fiction (1,480) philosophy (6,143) political theory (227) politics (265) postmodernism (445) poststructuralism (542) power (270) prison (117) psychiatry (130) psychology (472) queer (112) read (124) sex (171) sexuality (827) social theory (344) sociology (771) theory (1,427) to-read (1,581) translation (179) unread (149) wishlist (111)

Common Knowledge

Other names
Florence, Maurice
Foucault, Paul-Michel (birth name)
Date of death
Burial location
Vendeuvre-du-Poitou, Vienne, Grand-Est, France
France (birth)
Poitiers, Vienne, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
Place of death
Paris, Île-de-France, France
Cause of death
Places of residence
Poitiers, France
Uppsala, Sweden
Tunis, Tunisia
Paris, France
École Normale Supérieure
Collège de Sorbonne
Lycee Henri-IV, Paris, France
university professor
social theorist
Defert, Daniel (partner)
Université Lille Nord de France
University of Clermont-Ferrand
Tunis University
Collège de France
Groupe d'Information sur les Prisons
Short biography
Paul-Michel Foucault was born in Poitiers, France, and attended the elite École Normale Supérieure. His first major book, Madness and Civilization, was published in 1961. He taught at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, and in 1969 became Professor of the History of Systems of Thought at the prestigious Collège de France, a position he held until his death. He also lectured at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley. Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions and his work on the history of human sexuality.



This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
"Lectures on the Will to Know" by Michel Foucault, edited by Arnold I. I. Davidson and translated by Graham Burchell, delves into the core of Foucault's philosophical inquiries, focusing on the pursuit of truth. Building upon his seminal work "Discipline and Punish," Foucault navigates through the intricate relationship between truth, power, and the law, shedding light on the various forms of truth-telling and their implications in society. This collection of lectures from the Collège de France offers readers a profound exploration of the complexities surrounding knowledge acquisition and dissemination, challenging conventional perspectives and prompting a reevaluation of Foucault's intellectual legacy.

The publication of "Lectures on the Will to Know" marks a significant milestone in Foucault's reception, as it provides invaluable insights into his evolving thoughts on truth and power dynamics. By dissecting the intersections of tragedy, conflict, and truth-telling, Foucault invites readers to critically engage with the mechanisms that shape our understanding of reality. This thought-provoking work not only enriches our comprehension of Foucault's oeuvre but also stimulates discussions on the nature of truth in contemporary society, making it an essential read for scholars and enthusiasts alike.
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vegetarian | 9 other reviews | Jun 9, 2024 |
Society has ways to provide a contrast between the wanted values, and the unwanted. Needing the presence of an insistent and fearful figure, that is kept at a sacred distance. Salvation comes through exile, through abandonment. The position of the excluded used to be occupied by those with leprosy. Although leprosy disappeared, the social infrastructure of exclusion did not. The position of the excluded was been taken up by the poor vagabonds, criminals, and deranged minds. During a time when reason was becoming the ideal virtue, unreason became the threat. Madness assumed the form of non-reason. The opposite of reason. Each existing in relation to the other. As they provide each other with a contrast.

Madness provides an inaccessible mystery, making others curious about it. Madness appears to be a very arbitrary phenomena, that debases the human to a primal animal. Haunted by one’s own nature. Madness depends on perspective, for someone’s fantasy, is another’s hallucination. What is real to some, is imaginary to others. Madness values knowledge, but cannot control the secrets of knowledge. Cannot reconcile the absurdities of knowledge, and find a way to proceed. Madness developed by an excess of false learning, a punishment for disorder. Desperate passion can lead to madness. Excess disappointment loses the object of affection, means having nothing to prevent a fall into a void of delirium. Madness can be tamed, and appear to be in control of one’s faculties. Disguised in the ambiguity of reality and illusion.

Madness Managing:
Some cities provided a budget for the care of those deemed to have a madness, but were normally just thrown in prison. Some cities took the mad in as they were interested in cures that would provide miracles.

There were various public rituals involved in exclusion of the mad. Delivering them to sailors, made sure of their removal, but also provided a potential of a watery grave. Water as a purification symbol. An uncertain fate, as every departure potentially the last.

Work was assumed to be an ethical exercise and moral guarantee. Prisoners who could work were released, not because they could be useful, but because they submitted to the ethical pact of human existence.

Confinement became the normal treatment for economic measure and social precaution. Madness has become a mental illness, and separated from society. Communication with those who have a madness, has been delegated to those dealing with diseases.

The book is difficult to read. The transitions between claims are poor, by moving too quickly between different ideas, sources, and topics. Many references are esoteric.
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Eugene_Kernes | 26 other reviews | Jun 4, 2024 |
A good collection of some of Foucault's best known pieces.
sfj2 | 5 other reviews | Mar 15, 2024 |
This is simply one of the greatest books on philosophy I've ever read. It changed how i view civilization.
MylesKesten | 40 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |



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Associated Authors

Alessandro Fontana General editor, Editor, Foreword
Paul Rabinow Editor, Series Editor
Sylvère Lotringer Editor, Introduction
David Hoy Editor
Duccio Trombadori Joint Author
Joel Smith Author
Robert Hurley Translator
Colin Gordon Editor, Translator
François Ewald General editor, Foreword
John Mepham Translator
Kate Soper Translator
Leo Marshall Translator
Graham Burchell Translator
François Ewald General editor
John Rajchman Introduction
Patricia Moulin Contributor
Jeanne Favret Contributor
Robert Castel Contributor
Jean-Pierre Peter Contributor
Alexandre Fontana Contributor
Philippe Riot Contributor
Nicolas Philibert Réalisateur adjoint
Georgette Legée Contributor
Maryvonne Saison Contributor
Ilmārs Blumbergs Cover designer
Irēna Auziņa Translator
Alan Sheridan Translator
Josef Fulka Translator
Jose Barchilon Introduction
Richard Howard Translator
Karel Thein Translator
Ladislav Šerý Translator
René Magritte Illustrator
James Harkness Translator
Māra Rubene Translator
David Macey Translator
Arnold I. Davidson Editor, Series Editor
豊崎 光一 Translator
Horacio Pons Translator
John Johnston Translator
Kate Briggs Translator
Dominique Séglard Introduction
James Cascaito Translator
Astra Šmite Translator
Werner Zegarzewski Cover designer
Maira Mora Translator
Roberts Apinis Translator
Vilhelms Šmids Afterword
Elga Freiberga Translator
岩崎 力 Translator


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