Paul Foucault, but his mother insisted on the addition of "Michel"; referred to as "Paul" at school, he expressed a preference for "Michel" throughout his life. He then undertook his first four years of secondary education at the same establishment, excelling in French, Greek, Latin and history but doing poorly at arithmetic and mathematics. Lonely, he described his years there as an "ordeal", but he excelled academically, particularly in philosophy, history and literature.
Foucault himself tells us that after his early experience of a Stalinist communist party, he felt sick of politics, and shied away from political involvements for a long time.
Still, in his first book, which appeared inless than two years after Foucault had left the Party, his theoretical perspective remained Marxist. This book was a history of psychology, published in English as Mental Illness and Psychology. In the original text, Foucault concludes that mental illness is a result of alienation caused by capitalism.
However, he excised this Marxist content from a later edition inbefore suppressing publication of the book entirely; an English translation of the edition continues to be available only by an accident of copyright MIP vii.
He gives here a historical account, repeated in brief in the edition of Mental Illness and Psychology, of what he calls the constitution of an experience of madness in Europe, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
This encompasses correlative study of institutional and discursive changes in the treatment of the mad, to understand the way that madness was constituted as a phenomenon. Its historical inquiry into the interrelation of institutions and discourses set the pattern for his political works of the s.
Foucault saw there as being three major shifts in the treatment of madness in the period under discussion. The first, with the Renaissance, saw a new respect for madness.
Previously, madness had been seen as an alien force to be expelled, but now madness was seen as a form of wisdom.
This abruptly changed with the beginning of the Enlightenment in the seventeenth century. Now rationality was valorized above all else, and its opposite, madness, was excluded completely. The unreasonable was excluded from discourse, and congenitally unreasonable people were physically removed from society and confined in asylums.
For Foucault, however, this was no true liberation, but rather the attempt by Enlightenment reasoning to finally negate madness by understanding it completely, and cure it with medicine.
The History of Madness thus takes seriously the connection between philosophical discourse and political reality. Ideas about reason are not merely taken to be abstract concerns, but as having very real social implications, affecting every facet of the lives of thousands upon thousands of people who were considered mad, and indeed, thereby, altering the structure of society.
Rather than attempt to ground experience in material circumstances, here it might seem that cultural transformation is being blamed for the transformation of society.
This would, however, be a misreading. The History of Madness posits no causal priority, either of the cultural shift over the institutional, or vice versa. It simply notes the coincident transformation, without etiological speculation. Moreover, while the political forces at work in the history of madness were not examined by Foucault in this work, it is clearly a political book, exploring the political stakes of philosophy and medicine.
Many were convinced that Foucault was an idealist, however, by later developments in his thought. After The History of Madness, Foucault began to focus on the discursive, bracketing political concerns almost entirely. This was first, and most clearly, signalled in the preface to his next book, The Birth of the Clinic.
Although the book itself essentially extends The History of Madness chronologically and thematically, by examining the birth of institutional medicine from the end of the eighteenth century, the preface is a manifesto for a new methodology that will attend only to discourses themselves, to the language that is uttered, rather than the institutional context.
Whereas in The History of Madness and The Birth of the Clinic, Foucault had pursued historical researches that had been relatively balanced between studying conventional historical events, institutional change, and the history of ideas, The Order of Things represented an abstract history of thought that ignored almost anything outside the discursive.
His specific claims were indeed quite unique, namely that in the history of academic discourses, in a given epoch, knowledge is organized by an episteme, which governs what kind of statements can be taken as true. The Order of Things charts several successive historical shifts of episteme in relation to the human sciences.
These claims led Foucault onto a collision with French Marxism. This could not have been entirely unintended by Foucault, in particular because in the book he specifically accuses Marxism of being a creature of the nineteenth century that was now obsolete.
Foucault here was opposing a particular conception of the human being as a sovereign subject who can understand itself. In its humanist form, Marxism cast itself as a movement for the full realization of the individual.
Foucault, by contrast, saw the notion of the individual as a recent and aberrant idea. Furthermore, his entire presumption to analyse and criticize discourses without reference to the social and economic system that produced them seemed to Marxists to be a massive step backwards in analysis.
The book indeed seems to be apolitical: The Order of Things proved so controversial, its claims so striking, that it became a best-seller in France, despite being a lengthy, ponderous, scholarly tome.
It is thus not a total rejection of Marxism, or dismissal of the importance of economics. His anti-humanist position was not in itself anti-Marxist, inasmuch as Althusser took much the same line within a Marxist framework, albeit one that tended to challenge basic tenets of Marxism, and which was rejected by the Marxist establishment.
Foucault thus shows a lack of interest in the political, but no outright denial of the importance of politics. Foucault was at this time fundamentally oriented towards the study of language. This should not in itself be construed as apolitical.A Summary of Michael Focault's Right of Death and Power Over Life PAGES 2.
WORDS View Full Essay. More essays like this: literary analysis, right of death and power over life, michael foucault. Not sure what I'd do without @Kibin - Alfredo Alvarez, student @ Miami University.
This examination shows that historically the use of violence has developed from being excessive and brutal (the sovereign’s 'Right of Death') to normative and . Foucault: power is everywhere. Michel Foucault, the French postmodernist, has been hugely influential in shaping understandings of power, leading away from the analysis of actors who use power as an instrument of coercion, and even away from the discreet structures in which those actors operate, toward the idea that ‘power is everywhere’, diffused and embodied in discourse, knowledge and.
Indeed, he sometimes refers to sovereign power as “thanatopolitics,” the politics of death, in contrast to biopolitics’s politics of life. Biopolitics is a form of power that works by helping you to live, thanatopolitics by killing you, or at best allowing you to live.
Part Five: Right of Death and Power over Life 1) The sovereign exercised the right over life and death in the juridical form of requiring citizens to go to war & by being able to punish transgression with death: power over life & death was a power of subtraction, i.e.
power to seize things, time & bodies, the right take hold of life in order to. Sep 16, · Foucault asserts that in modern times sovereign power “as the ‘power of life and death’ was in reality the right to take life or let live” ().
The sovereign exercises his power over life through the deaths that he can command and exercises his power over death by the lives he can spare.