Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault was a French Philosopher, Sociologist, and Psychologist (“Wikipedia”). He was made famous for his study of society, psychiatry, medicine, and human sexuality. Foucault rarely allowed himself to be associated with a certain label or movement for very long, and it was even rarer for him to accept even the labels that fit him best (“Wikipedia”). He has been called many things, including but not limited to: neo-anarchist, neo-functionalist, crypto-normativist, and by the Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, “the last rampart of the bourgeoisie,” (“Wikipedia”).

Michel Foucault was born October 15th, 1926, in the town of Poitiers, France (“Wikipedia”). He was born to Paul Foucault and Anne Malapert. Despite being deemed intellectually gifted at an early age, he had difficulty in school until he attended the Jesuit College Saint-Stanislas (“Foucault Society”). It wouldn’t be until his education at the Ecole Normale Superieure that his interest in psychology would make an appearance (“Wikipedia”). Due to a difficult personal life at ENS he suffered from acute depression. The interest showed itself after Michel was taken to see a psychiatrist for his depression (“History of Madness”). In 1952 Michel was given a license in psychology and a degree in philosophy. Foucault took up various jobs in teaching and lecturing across France from 1951 to 1954 (“Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy”).

After the publishing of his first book, Maladie mentale et personnalite ( later renamed and very slightly edited for its 1963 reissuing as Maladie Mentale et Psychologie ) Michel exiled himself from France, living in Sweden, Poland, and Germany respectively (“Wikipedia”). Michel, after returning to France in 1960, earned his doctorate with two theses: Folie et Deraison: Histoire de la folie a l’age classique and a secondary thesis (“Wikipedia”).

After Michel’s lover Daniel Defert, whom Michel met while at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in 1960, was relocated to Tunisia by the military, Michel took up a position at the University of Tunis in 1965 (“Foucault Society”). After angering many critics with his statements about his distaste of Marxism and publishing Les Mots et les choses, which earned him the unwanted label of “Structuralist,” he returned to France in 1968 (”Wikipedia”).Foucault was appointed the first head of Paris VIII’s philosophy department in 1968 (“Foucault Society”). “Foucault appointed mostly young leftist academics”. The board of education was angered by this decision and decided that students from the school would not be able to become secondary school teachers. Foucault left Paris VIII in 1970 when he was elected to the College de France, as Professor of the History of Systems of Thought (“Wikipedia”).

Shortly after his election, Michel began to write “The History of Sexuality”, which was intended to have six-volumes. The project was never completed. Three of the six planned volumes have been released. It could be speculated that this was due to his increased travel during this part of his life. Much of Michel’s time was spent in the United States. In 1975, while in Death Valley Park in the United States, he took LSD at Zabriskie Point. Later he called it the best experience of his life (“Wikipedia”).

AIDS took the life of Foucault in Paris on the 25th of June, 1984 (“Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy”). Shortly before his death, Michel had destroyed most of his manuscripts, and in his will had prohibited the publication of what he might have overlooked (“Wikipedia”).


“Michel Foucault.” Wikipedia. 22 Sept 2010. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.. 22 Sept 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Foucault&gt;. (”Wikipedia”)

 “Biography of Michel Foucault (1926-1984).” The Foucault Society. Foucault Society, 2005. Web. 23 Sep 2010. <http://www.foucaultsociety.org/resources/michel_foucault.asp&gt;. (“Foucault Society”)

“Michel Foucault.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Gary Cutting, 17 Sep 2008. Web. 23 Sep 2010. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entreid/foucault/&gt;. (“Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy”)

Foucault, Michel (2006). History of Madness. New York: Routledge. Print.  (“History of Madness”)

 Report by AJ


About mlleminor

Instructor in MCL French Division at the University of Kentucky
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