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Michel Foucault
Paul-Michel Foucault

15 October 1926
Poitiers, France
Died 25 June 1984(1984-06-25) (aged 57)
Paris, France
Education B.A., M.A.: École Normale Supérieure
Dr. cand.: Fondation Thiers
Second B.A./specialist diploma/DrE: University of Paris
Notable work
Madness and Civilization (1961)
The Order of Things (1966)
Discipline and Punish (1975)
The History of Sexuality (1976)
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy
Institutions École Normale Supérieure (1951–55)
Université de Lille (1953–54)
Uppsala University
University of Warsaw
Institut français Hamburg [de]
University of Clermont-Ferrand
Tunis University
University of Paris VIII
Collège de France
University at Buffalo
University of California, Berkeley
New York University
Doctoral advisor Georges Canguilhem
Main interests
History of ideas, epistemology, historical epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of literature, philosophy of technology
Notable ideas
Biopower (biopolitics), disciplinary institution, discourse analysis, discursive formation, dispositif, épistémè, "genealogy", governmentality, heterotopia, limit-experience, power-knowledge, panopticism, subjectivation (assujettissement), parrhesia, visibilités

Michel Foucault (October 15, 1926 – June 25, 1984) was a French philosopher and historian. He wrote about many topics, and influenced many other thinkers.

Foucault studied institutions such as psychiatric wards, hospitals, schools, and prisons, to figure out how they affected the people living in them. He was gay. He also studied the history of sexuality and, later in his life, wrote about homosexuality.

He is often called a postmodernist or post-structuralist philosopher. Some philosophers claim that some of his ideas were influenced by existentialism. However, Foucault rejected all of these labels.

Early life

Foucault was born in 1926 in Poitiers, France. His father, Paul Foucault, was a surgeon. He attended the Jesuit Collège Saint-Stanislas. After World War II Foucault studied at the École Normale Supérieure. While attending university, he became depressed, and tried to kill himself.

Foucault became very interested in psychology. He got a degree in philosophy and a degree in psychology. Foucault joined the French Communist Party from 1950 to 1953. He left the Communist Party because he was sad about all of the people that Stalin was killing in the Soviet Union.

University professor

In the early 1950s, he taught at the École Normale. Then he began teaching psychology at the University of Lille. In 1954 Foucault published his first book, Maladie mentale et personnalité. In the mid-1950s, he worked at Warsaw University and at the University of Hamburg.

He returned to France in 1960 to become a philosophy professor at the University of Clermont-Ferrand. In the mid-1960s, Foucault moved with his lover to Tunis (in North Africa), and got a job teaching at the University of Tunis. In 1966 he published Les Mots et les choses (The Order of Things), which was very popular. In 1968 he returned to France, where he published L'archéologie du savoir (The Archaeology of Knowledge).

In the late 1960s, after France had huge student protests and riots, the French government created a new experimental university at Vincennes. Foucault became the first head of its philosophy department. Foucault joined students in occupying administration buildings and fighting with police.

In 1970, Foucault became a Professor of the History of Systems of Thought at the Collège de France. His political involvement now increased. His male lover Defert joined the ultra-Maoist Gauche Proletarienne (GP). Foucault then wrote Surveiller et Punir (Discipline and Punish), about prisons and schools.

Final years

In the late 1970s, Foucault began to spend more time in the United States, at the University at Buffalo. In 1978 Foucault toured Iran to support the new revolutionary Islamic government. Foucault died in Paris on 26 June 1984.

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