Who is Michel Foucault (Fuko)?June 26, 2021
French philosopher Michel Foucault (pronounced “Michel fuko”) was born on October 15, 1926, in Poitiers. His father was a surgeon who wanted his son to follow his own career.
After graduating from the Saint-Stanislas School, Foucault entered the prestigious Henry IV High School in Paris. In 1946 he was the fourth student admitted to the École Normale Supérieure, where he had failed his exams before. He discovered his homosexuality during his school years. He studied philosophy with Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He earned a degree in philosophy in 1948, a degree in psychology in 1950, and was awarded a diploma in psychopathology in 1952.
From 1954 he wrote his doctoral thesis at Uppsala University in Sweden for four years. The positivist vein of Uppsala University of the time did not find Foucault’s thesis scientific and did not accept it. He taught French for one year at the Universities of Warsaw and Hamburg. He returned to France in 1960 to the University of Clermont-Ferrard as the head of the Philosophy Department. He was awarded a doctorate with his thesis in the book “Madness and Civilization”. That same year, Foucault met Daniel Defert, a philosophy student ten years his junior. Defert’s political activism guided him in his work. Foucault said much later of his relationship with Defert that it was a long-term affair of passion, which at times resembled love.
Foucault’s second major work, “Words and Things” (Les Mots et les choses), was a comparative study of economics, natural and linguistics, published in 1966. This bestselling book played a major role in the recognition of Foucault’s name.
Between 1966-1968 he went to Tunisia with Defert and together they returned to Paris. Foucault became head of the Philosophy department at the University of Paris-VIII in Vicennes, and Defert began teaching in the sociology department. They were greatly influenced by the 1968 student movement. That same year, Foucault, together with other intellectuals, founded The Prison Information Group.
He published “The Archeology of Knowledge” (Archéologie du savoir) in 1969. In 1970 he was elected professor of the History of Thought Systems at the College of France, one of the most important research institutes. In 1975 he published “The Birth of Prison” (La Naissance de la Prison), perhaps his most influential book.
During the remaining years of his life, he devoted himself to the study of “The History of Sexuality” (Histoire de la sexualité). He published the first volume in 1976, although he did not quite finish the work, the second and third volumes were published soon after his death in 1984.
Michel Foucault was more of a philosopher who studied the permanent truths in society. Foucault, who was highly influenced by the thoughts of Nietzsche and Heidegger, mostly struggled with the ideas of Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud in his works. He has worked on prisons, police, insurance, insanity, homosexuality and social rights. He built all his work on the impact of modernity on individuals and the new power relations it brought.
Also please see:
– Detailed information about Foucault
– People’s self-esteem
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook