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Michel Foucault
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  1. Michel Foucault

  2. Short Biography • Born in 1926 to upper middle class parents in Poitiers, France • Homosexual; died of aids in 1984 • Highly educated • -studied/taught psychology • Later was a radical activist • Was bullied constantly by peers giving him many of his ideas on power/knowledge

  3. Major beliefs • Identity-no such thing. • Humans have characteristics that relate to one another but are not defined in whole by these characteristics • Eg. Being a woman/gay is not one’s “identity”, it is simply a characteristic about them • Saw identity as a form of exercising power and preventing “labeled groups” from moving forward • Us vs. them mentality • Rejected labels and using labels as an argument for equality

  4. Power/Knowledge • “relation not a thing” • Foucault rejected idea that power was held by a particular group to “lord over another group” • At every level of humanity; even micro levels • not property of a state or institution • No such thing as power without resistance • All forms of knowledge =ideology Ideology made up of one’s knowledge of the world -Power produces knowledge of inferiority Power is not possible without knowledge of some kind.

  5. Discipline • Major work: The Birth of the Prison • Thesis: discipline is another way to exercise power • Modern prisons: focused on discipline by observation rather then physical punishment of the body(related to behaviorism) • Prisoners behaved because they knew they could be observed(again POWER)

  6. Homosexuality • Major Work: History of Sexuality • Foucault himself was gay • Hated being “labeled” as gay as if this was his sole identity • Went further then advocating for equality; did not want homosexuality to be a defining characteristic • Individuals made to feel their sexuality was wrong because of the knowledge/power connection Controversial: but agree or disagree? This is a very modern argument for the homosexual rights movement. Thus, it is very relevant.

  7. Response to Feminism • Rejected it because he rejected traditional ideologies in any form • Simone de Beouvior “men had made women to be the other” • Foucault disagreed because of his power and identity arguments Virginia Wolf -slightly on the same page as Wolf in the sense that he advocated equality but, again, disagreed with the women vs. men argument. “freedom is a practice rather then a goal to be achieved”

  8. Response to Marxism • 'Marxism exists in nineteenth century thought like a fish in water: that is, it is unable to breathe anywhere else' and that it was a mere 'storm ... in a children's paddling pool' (The Order of Things, p. 262). • Problem was not the rich overruling the poor because power did not rest solely in the state; it rests in knowledge/power • Rejected focusing solely on economic injustices • Discussion: Do you agree more with Marx or Foucault on the roots of power?

  9. Structuralism/post modernism • Structuralism: studying systems of the world in manageable parts • Postmodernism-rejected most philosophical cornerstones • -focus on the history of how these ideas came into place rather then “finding the answers” • -rejected enlightenment • -rejected romanticism • Foucault refused to be labeled but he’s associated with these two movements

  10. Discussion(Test Questions) • How did Foucault's philosophies relate to and or contradict Marxism and Feminism • In what ways are Foucault's beliefs related to structuralism? In what ways are they related to modernism? Does he sway more one way or the other?

  11. Works cited/ Suggested Links • Michel Foucault. http://www.michel-foucault.com/ April 24th 2009. -broad database with biography, and analysis of major works • Michel Foucault. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/foucault/ Stanford. April 24 2009l This site has a great summary of Foucault's views in depth • Welcome to the World of Foucault. http://www.csun.edu/~hfspc002/foucault.home.html CSUN. 2009.This site contains a genealogy of Foucault's work • Foucault. http://www.foucault.info/ April 24 2009.Even more information on Foucault!

  12. Other Consulted works • Michel Foucault Resources. http://www.synaptic.bc.ca/ejournal/foucault.htm. April 24th 2009. • Foucault.http://www.protevi.com/john/Foucault/. Protevi. April 24th 2009.