Michel Foucault - Personal Life

Personal Life

Foucault's first biographer, Didier Eribon, described the philosopher as "a complex, many-sided character", and that "under one mask there is always another". He also noted that he exhibited an "enormous capacity for work". At the ENS, Foucault's classmates unanimously summed him up as a figure who was both "disconcerting and strange" and "a passionate worker". His personality would change as he aged however; Eribon noted that while he was a "tortured adolescent", post-1960, he had become "a radiant man, relaxed and cheerful", even being described by those who worked with him as a dandy.

Foucault was a fan of classical music, particularly enjoying the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Politically, Foucault remained a leftist throughout his life, but his particular stance within the left often changed. In the early 1950s he had been a member of the French Communist Party, although never adopted an orthodox Marxist viewpoint and left the party after three years, disgusted by the prejudice towards Jews and homosexuals within its ranks. After spending some time working in Poland, then governed as a socialist state by the Communist Party of Poland, he became further disillusioned with communism, and by the early 1960s was considered to be "violently anticommunist".

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    The dialectic between change and continuity is a painful but deeply instructive one, in personal life as in the life of a people. To ‘see the light’ too often has meant rejecting the treasures found in darkness.
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