Foucault, Michel

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a French social theorist, and philosopher (see: la-ville-lumiere). While often identified as a postmodernist, Foucault preferred to think of himself as a critic of modernity. His service as an international diplomat on behalf of France also influenced his understanding of social constructs throughout history and how they have served to enforce racial, religious, and sexual inequality. His ideals have been particularly embraced by progressive movements, and he allied with many during his lifetime. Active in movements against racism, human rights abuses, prisoner abuses, and marginalization of the mentally ill, he is often cited as a major influence in movements for social justice, human rights, and feminism. More broadly speaking, his examination of power and social control has had a direct influence on the studies of sociology, communications, and political science.

Foucault’s key contributions

  • Held the conviction that the study of philosophy must begin through a close and ongoing study of history;
  • Demanded that social constructs be more closely examined for hierarchical inequalities, as well as through an analysis of the corresponding fields of knowledge supporting these unequal structures;
  • Believed oppressed humans are entitled to rights and they have a duty to rise up against the abuse of power to protect these rights.

Foucault’s Key Works

  • The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (1966)
  • The Archaeology of Knowledge: And the Discourse on Language (1969)
  • Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975)***

*** and 1997 ( o my j )