Course:SOCI1110/Michel Foucault

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1.)  (Paul) Michel Foucault was born October 15, 1926 in Poitiers, France. Foucault was a French philosopher and historian. He primarily studied philosophy but obtained psychology. Michel has been recognized as one of the most influential scholars of the post-World War II period. HIs father Paul was a French physician, and his mother was Anne Malapert. He came from a bourgeois family. His grandfather also came from a medical background. In 1945 after World War II Michel moved to Paris, France. Michel gained acceptance to Ecole Normal Superieure in Paris, France 1946. He would go on to study psychology and philosophy. Michel was 20 years old at the time of his entry to the school. In 1952 he graduated from ENS. During these years at ENS Michel struggled with coming to terms with his homosexuality which led to his depression and attempted suicide. He protested on behalf of homosexuals and other marginalized groups. After graduating from ENS he would take a teaching position at the University of Lille.
         Foucault spent five years (1955-1960) as a cultural attache to promote cultural relations for France. He did this in Uppsala, Sweden, Warsaw, Poland, and Hamburg, West Germany (Germany). After his return to France in 1960 he taught Psychology at the Univeristy of Clermont-Ferrand. He stayed there until 1966. Michel lived in Paris during this time. Michel met militant Daniel Defert in 1960, Defert would later become a student, and then a sociologist. In 1966 Michel took up the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Tunis. Where Defert was posted for 18 months of compulsory military service in Tunisia. Michel would keep his position until 1968. He missed the student riots of May 1968. Then returned to France in 1968 following the completion of his term. After returning to France he took authority over the running of the Philosophy Department at the University of Vincennes in Paris. U of V was used as a experimental school to answer the student uprising of 1968. Foucault created a group of militant Marxists. In 1984, Michel contracted HIV and was then diagnosed with AIDS in 1984. A septicemia in the brain would cause his death on June 25, 1984.
    During Foucault’s early life, the Great Depression was a famous economic event that impacted the entire world. The Great Depression is a famous event that is used to this day as an example of how low the economy can sink. However, France (Foucault’s home country) was impacted later on, in 1931. Luckily France wasn’t hit as bad as others, it is partly blamed to lead up to the February 6, 1934 riots, leading up to the election of socialist leader Leon Blum. Leon Blum was the first socialist premier of France, being elected in 1936. Blum’s reign was a massive social event as he was the first of his time. His government introduced the forty-hour work week and having paid vacation leave, against a lot of opposition. Blum played a major role for socialists.

On February 6, 1934 nationalists and Great War veterans started a riot in Paris, more then one hundred thousand gathered along the streets, demanding a change. Radical government resigned, and a national government was formed, which allowed the people to trust the government once again, stabilizing France.

3.)    During his travels abroad he wrote his first major work, History of Madness: Madness and Civilization, published in 1961. This work was about a study of the modern concept of "mental illness" in Europe. It was formed from his comprehensive documentation and his intense anger of modern psychiatry. In Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault’s main idea is based on insisting that madness is not natural but is more dependent on the society in which it exists and how the role of madness was treated in western society.
         In 1963, The Birth of the Clinic was published. It was a critique of modern clinical medicine. This book is closer to a standard history of science. It is based on the tradition of Georges Canguilhem’s approach. The Birth of The Clinic was a critical history of looking at how public health came into in the modern world, the emergence of ‘Governmentality’, regulated social spaces and how eventually we would become self-governed bodies. Michel Foucault coined the term ‘Governmentality’, this was about how the state exercises control over the population.
         The book, Les mots et les choses (The Order of Things) made him famous. It took the original history; psychiatry and clinical medicine and expanded to more modern information about economics, biology, and philosophy.
        Between the years 1976 and 1984 Michel wrote, The History of Sexuality, a three volume series. The first volume of this series was never published. And due to his death the fourth volume was never completed. The second volume was a comparison between ancient ideas of ethical self.
         In 1984, he wrote two books Greek and Roman Sexuality: The use of pleasure and The Care of the Self. The goal was to compare ancient pagan and Christian ethics about their ideas of sex. The History of Sexuality had three volumes: An Introduction, The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self. In the first volume of The History of Sexuality: The Introduction, Michel talks about the concept of “sexuality”. He is not interested in sexuality itself but is more interested on how it is linked to knowledge and the power that is in knowledge.
         He argues that it is a concept of self-image and is running and controlled quirks in history and therefore adopts the position that is now termed as “Post Structuralism”. The basis of the first volume was to counter what Foucault called “The repressive hypothesis”. This hypothesis was about how sex has been consistently repressed and that the only way we can be politically liberated is by liberation sexually. In the second and third volumes Michel examined the role of sex in Ancient Greece and Rome when sex was not an issue of morality but something normal and occurring.
         In 1969, Michel published the L’Archeologie du savoir (The Archaeology of Knowledge). The Archaeology of Knowledge is how Foucault theoretically describes the methods that he used for his first three works of history which were Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, and The Order of Things. It was not meant to be a formal theory but more of a description of a specific kind of approach to speaking about history. There are 4 parts to his work, Part I, The Introduction. The introduction was about recent changes in the historical method. He related the changes to the new uncertain status of the historical document, and the critique of histories that depend on loose notions of stability as unhelpful and out-dated. Part II, ‘The Discursive Regularities’ seeks to find out what kinds of interconnections exist in the discourse of history. In order to find out the answer he came up with four hypotheses: “in which unity is based on the object of discourse, the author(s) of discourse, the concepts used in discourse, or the theories and themes of discourse” ( Foucault). The basis of each hypothesis turned out to be something more complex and each of them turned out not to be the only basis for unity. In Part III, 'The Statement and the Archive,' Michel takes a step back from the interconnections of discourse and attempts to interpret the discursive field from its smallest element to all of it as a whole. Lastly in Part IV, Michel Foucault talks about the differences between his archaeological method and the history of ideas. In this part he states that his method helps replace broad interrelationships and generalizations with more specific relations that conserve the differences of discourse.

He was the founder of Groupe d’information sur les prisons. ( Information Group on Prisons) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of The Prison was published in 1975. This work was about modern ways to punish criminals rather than torture or kill them.

    Foucault was a major contributor to society. Most of his writing referred the role of institutions like prison and medicine, in producing knowledge of people. He figured that to assert others in believing they have a disorder was a form of power, he maintained that no knowledge is neutral, and is all tied to power, thus political. Foucault studied patients and doctors at Hopital Saint-Anne after his failed suicide attempt in 1948.Foucault’s key contribution was his ability to see how the institutions, including science, create subject categories for people to take in, through the use of discourage. He argued that those who ran the institutions use power in society, because they control the way people think of themselves, shaping the course of their lives.

5.) Michel Foucault’s works revolved around power/knowledge, discipline, governmentality, and biopower. He was interested in how power works in the social life. One of his works revolved around the critique of medicine which was one of the west’s most powerful institutions. His father and grandfather both worked in the field of medicine. His father, Paul Foucault wanted Michel to get into medicine, but he denied. Michel was raised around medicine he could’ve noticed all the pros and cons of medicine. The Birth of Clinic revolved around the concept of mental illness. Michel might have been interested in this concept due to the fact that in the 1950’s homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Throughout Michel’s years at ENS he struggled with his sexuality. His work derived from anger. His confusion could have later triggered his interest into modern medicine.

         He was brought up in a bourgeois family which in that time held most of the power economically. This may have led to Michel’s interest in studying how power works in the social life. Particularly with regard to how seemingly everyday practices and ideas structure our personal experiences and sense of self. He formed Groupe d’information sur les prisons because he was against the death penalty, this tie back to discipline and knowledge. Michel lived through World War II which was one of History’s largest rises of power. He opposed any identification of knowledge, even the most mistaken knowledge with power. He adapted communism but then abandoned it.

Citations: Foubian, James (2016). Michel Foucault. Retrieved from Kelly Mark (no date) Michel Foucault (1926-1984) Retrieved from Gary Gutting. 2013. Michel Foucault. Retrieved from, Great Depression - Wikipedia. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Britannica, retrieved from About Sociology - Who Was Michel Foucault? retrieved from Mike Madson, February 6th Riots, retrieved from