Michel Foucault  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Michel Foucault (born Paul-Michel Foucault) (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984) was a French philosopher, historian, social theorist, philologist and literary critic. His philosophical theories addressed the nature of power and the manner in which it functions, the means by which it controls knowledge and vice versa, and how it is used as a form of social control. Foucault is best known for his histories of ideas and critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, the social anthropology of medicine, the human sciences, the prison system, and the history of human sexuality. His writings on power, knowledge, and discourse have been widely influential in both academic and activist circles.

Born in Poitiers, France to an upper-middle-class family, Foucault was educated at the Lycée Henri-IV and then the École Normale Supérieure, where he developed an interest in philosophy and came under the influence of his tutors—philosophers Jean Hyppolite and Louis Althusser. After several years as a cultural diplomat abroad, he returned to France and published his first major book, The History of Madness (later published in English in an abbreviated volume called Madness and Civilization). After obtaining work between 1960 and 1966 at the University of Clermont-Ferrand, he produced two more significant publications, The Birth of the Clinic and The Order of Things, which displayed his increasing involvement with structuralism, a theoretical movement in social anthropology from which he later distanced himself. These first three histories were examples of a historiographical technique Foucault was developing he called archaeology which he would later give a comprehensive account of in The Archaeology of Knowledge. From 1966 to 1968, he lectured at the University of Tunis, Tunisia before returning to France, where he involved himself in several protest movements and left-wing groups. He went on to publish The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality, his so-called genealogies which emphasized the role power plays in the evolution of discourse in society. Foucault died in Paris of neurological problems compounded by HIV/AIDS; he was the first public figure in France to have died from the disease, with his partner Daniel Defert founding the AIDES charity in his memory.

Foucault rejected the post-structuralist and postmodernist labels later attributed to him, preferring to classify his thought as a critical history of modernity.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Michel Foucault" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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