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Michel Foucault

Birthdate: 15. October 1926
Date of death: 25. June 1984

Paul-Michel Doria Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, writer, political activist, and literary critic.

Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. Though often cited as a structuralist and postmodernist, Foucault rejected these labels. His thought has influenced academics, especially those working in communication studies, anthropology, psychology, sociology, criminology, cultural studies, literary theory, feminism, Marxism and critical theory.

Born in Poitiers, France, into an upper-middle-class family, Foucault was educated at the Lycée Henri-IV, at the École Normale Supérieure, where he developed an interest in philosophy and came under the influence of his tutors Jean Hyppolite and Louis Althusser, and at the University of Paris , where he earned degrees in philosophy and psychology. After several years as a cultural diplomat abroad, he returned to France and published his first major book, The History of Madness . After obtaining work between 1960 and 1966 at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, he produced The Birth of the Clinic and The Order of Things , publications which displayed his increasing involvement with structuralism, from which he later distanced himself. These first three histories exemplified a historiographical technique Foucault was developing called "archaeology."

From 1966 to 1968, Foucault lectured at the University of Tunis before returning to France, where he became head of the philosophy department at the new experimental university of Paris VIII. Foucault subsequently published The Archaeology of Knowledge . In 1970, Foucault was admitted to the Collège de France, a membership he retained until his death. He also became active in a number of left-wing groups involved in campaigns against racism and human rights abuses and for penal reform. Foucault later published Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality , in which he developed archaeological and genealogical methods which emphasized the role that power plays in society.

Foucault died in Paris from complications of HIV/AIDS; he became the first public figure in France to die from complications of the disease. His partner Daniel Defert founded the AIDES charity in his memory. Wikipedia

Works

„But the guilty person is only one of the targets of punishment. For punishment is directed above all at others, at all the potentially guilty.“

—  Michel Foucault, book Discipline and Punish

Source: Discipline and Punish (1977), Chapter Three, The Gentle Way in Punishment
Context: This, then, is how one must imagine the punitive city. At the crossroads, in the gardens, at the side of roads being repaired or bridges built, in workshops open to all, in the depths of mines that may be visited, will be hundreds of tiny theatres of punishment. Each crime will have its law; each criminal his punishment. It will be a visible punishment, a punishment that tells all, that explains, justifies itself, convicts: placards, different-coloured caps bearing inscriptions, posters, symbols, texts read or printed, tirelessly repeat the code. Scenery, perspectives, optical effects, trompe-l’œil sometimes magnify the scene, making it more fearful than it is, but also clearer. From where the public is sitting, it is possible to believe in the existence of certain cruelties which, in fact, do not take place. But the essential point, in all these real or magnified severities, is that they should all, according to a strict economy, teach a lesson: that each punishment should be a fable. And that, in counterpoint with all the direct examples of virtue, one may at each moment encounter, as a living spectacle, the misfortunes of vice. Around each of these moral ‘representations’, schoolchildren will gather with their masters and adults will learn what lessons to teach their offspring. The great terrifying ritual of the public execution gives way, day after day, street after street, to this serious theatre, with its multifarious and persuasive scenes. And popular memory will reproduce in rumour the austere discourse of the law. But perhaps it will be necessary, above these innumerable spectacles and narratives, to place the major sign of punishment for the most terrible of crimes: the keystone of the penal edifice.

„The 'Enlightenment', which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.“

—  Michel Foucault, book Discipline and Punish

Discipline and Punish (1977)
Source: Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

„Where there is power, there is resistance.“

—  Michel Foucault

Source: The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction

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„Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.“

—  Michel Foucault

Variant: Knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting.
Source: The Foucault Reader: An Introduction to Foucault's Thought

„We must first rid ourselves of the illusion that penality is above all (if not exclusively) a means of reducing crime and that, in this role, according to the social forms, the political systems or beliefs, it may be severe or lenient, tend towards expiation of obtaining redress, towards the pursuit of individuals or the attribution of collective responsibility.“

—  Michel Foucault, book Discipline and Punish

Source: Discipline and Punish (1977), Chapter One, The body of the condemned, pp. 24
Context: We must first rid ourselves of the illusion that penality is above all (if not exclusively) a means of reducing crime and that, in this role, according to the social forms, the political systems or beliefs, it may be severe or lenient, tend towards expiation of obtaining redress, towards the pursuit of individuals or the attribution of collective responsibility. We must analyse rather the ‘concrete systems of punishment’, study them as social phenomena that cannot be accounted for by the juridical structure of society alone, nor by its fundamental ethical choices; we must situate them in their field of operation, in which the punishment of crime is not the sole element; we must show that punitive measures are not simply ‘negative’ mechanisms that make it possible to repress, to prevent, to exclude, to eliminate; but that they are linked to a whole series of positive and useful effects which it is their task to support (and, in this sense, although legal punishment is carried out in order to punish offences, one might say that the definition of offences and their prosecution are carried out in turn in order to maintain the punitive mechanisms and their functions).

„The soul is the prison of the body.“

—  Michel Foucault, book Discipline and Punish

[L]'âme, prison du corps.
Discipline and Punish (1977) as translated by Alan Sheridan, p. 30
Discipline and Punish (1977)

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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