Michel Foucault (; born Paul-Michel Foucault) (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984) was a French philosopher, social theorist, historian of ideas, and literary critic. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought", and lectured at both the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley. His philosophical theories addressed what power is and how it works, the manner in which it controls knowledge and vice versa, and how it is used as a form of social control.
Born into a middle class family in Poitiers, Foucault was educated at the Lycée Henri-IV and then the École Normale Supérieure, where he developed a keen interest in philosophy and came under the influence of his tutors Jean Hyppolite and Louis Althusser. After several years as a cultural diplomat abroad, he returned to France and published his first major book, Madness and Civilization (1961), which explored the history of the mental institution in Europe. After obtaining work between 1960 and 1966 at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, he produced two more significant publications, The Birth of the Clinic (1963) and The Order of Things (1966), which displayed his increasing involvement with structuralism, a theoretical movement in social anthropology from which he later distanced himself.
From 1966 to 1968 he lectured at the University of Tunis, Tunisia before returning to France, where he involved himself in several protest movements and associated with far left groups. He then proceeded to publish on the history of prison systems. His final work was the three-volume The History of Sexuality. Foucault died in Paris of neurological problems compounded by the HIV/AIDS virus; he was the first famous figure in France to have died from the virus, with his partner Daniel Defert founding the AIDES charity in his memory.
He also rejected the poststructuralist and postmodernist labels later attributed to him, preferring to classify his thought as a critical history of modernity. Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, social anthropology of medicine, the human sciences, and the prison system, as well as for his work on the history of human sexuality. His writings on power, knowledge, and discourse have been widely influential in academic circles. His project was particularly influenced by Nietzsche, his "genealogy of knowledge" being a direct allusion to Nietzsche's "genealogy of morality". In an interview he stated: "I am a Nietzschean."
Famous quotes containing the word foucault:
“Justice must always question itself, just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions.”
—Michel Foucault (19261984)