Foucault: A Very Short Introduction
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From aesthetics to the penal system, and from madness and civilization to avant-garde literature, Foucault was happy to reject old models of thinking and replace them with fresh versions that are still being debated today. A major influence on Queer Theory and gender studies (he was openly gay and died of an AIDS-related illness in 1984), he also wrote on architecture, history, law, medicine, literature, politics, and of course philosophy. He even managed to write a best seller in France on a book dedicated to the history of systems of thought. Because he never succinctly stated his arguments, those trying to come to terms with Foucault's work have desperately sought introductory material to make his theories clear and accessible for the beginner.
Here, Gary Gutting presents a comprehensive but non-systematic treatment of some highlights of Foucault's life and thought. The book begins with a brief biography to set the social and political stage. It then considers Foucault's thoughts on literature, in particular the avant-garde scene, his philosophical and historical work and the reception he received from the historical community, his treatment of knowledge and power in modern society, and his thoughts on sexuality.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
and in certain other countries Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York © Gary Gutting 2005 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published as a Very Short Introduction 2005 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly
undertakes in Discipline and Punish. For one thing, Nietzsche’s effort has nothing of the careful scholarship and documentary detail of Foucault’s book. It is not the product of serious archival research – ‘gray, meticulous, and patiently documentary’ (‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’, EW II, 369) – but of an erudite amateur’s armchair speculations. More signiﬁcantly, Nietzsche’s genealogy operates with psychological causes (the pride and ambition of the strong, the resentment of the weak, the
presented as criticism, sometimes as plaudit) that Foucault leaves no room for objective, non-relativized truth. If, the thought goes, everything I believe is determined by the power structures of my society, how can any of my beliefs have validity except relative to the standards of that society? And, although there are some who praise Foucault for jettisoning outdated and repressive notions of objective truth, there seems to be much more point to the critics’ argument that such a position is
for users, not readers. (‘Prisons et asiles dans le mécanisme du pouvoir’, DE II, 523–4, my translation) ‘Truth, Power, Self’, an interview with Foucault, appears in L. H. Martin et al. (eds), Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988). Chapter 2 The title quote is cited in Eribon’s biography, p. 58. For a selection of Blanchot’s writings, see Michael Holland (ed.), The Blanchot Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995). For a
II, 70). But the very absurdity of this effort heightens the limit-experience through its deﬁance of the very laws of logic. Foucault just as in Bataille, embodies ‘the breakdown of philosophical subjectivity and its dispersion in a language that dispossesses it while multiplying it within the space created by its absence’ (‘A Preface to Transgression’, EW II, 79). Foucault traces this experience from Sade and Hölderlin though Nietzsche and Mallarmé to Artaud, Bataille, and Klossowski, to a