Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault, born on October 15, 1926 in Poitiers, France was a French philosopher and historian, one of the most influential and controversial scholars of the post-World War II period. He died of AIDS on June 25, 1984 in Paris.

Foucault was critical of certain philosophical ruminations which he felt were too straightforward questions, and was equally critical of their responses as well. Naturally, his way of thinking was different from his predecessors. His views on power and knowledge and the way they socially control societal institutions, particularly the bourgeois state (including its police, doctors, psychiatrists), along with his work on sexuality deemed him as a "postmodernist", although he disliked the label. He equally disliked being labeled a "homosexual" for being gay. 

Much of Foucault's criticism of the bourgeois state perhaps also came from his own family background. His father was an elite surgeon, and upon seeing his son's suicidal tendencies, sent Foucault to a renowned psychiatrist when he was 22. His psychiatrist had determined his stress primarily stemmed from him having to repress his sexuality in a largely heteronormative and censorious society. Consequently, Foucault followed the underground gay movement which had allowed him to express himself more freely.

After reading Nietzche's "The Uses and Abuses of the History of Life", Foucault began to think more the role of history as an archive to offer ideas and insight to help improve the present time. In his writings he criticized the bourgeois state and its institutions such as police, prison, medicine, and psychiatry along with how "modernity" affected sexuality. 

To view books by Foucault, click here.