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Yes, this is a very good basic guide to the French thinker No, it does not easily escape the obscurities inherent in the subject but it is worth persevering with Friends know that I have a fairly low opinion of the many French attempts to intellectualise existence into mere words The post structuralists can be a particular bete noire of mine But a major exception must be Michel Foucault who has made two major contributions to what really matters in life that is, not what we think the wor Yes, this is a very good basic guide to the French thinker No, it does not easily escape the obscurities inherent in the subject but it is worth persevering with Friends know that I have a fairly low opinion of the many French attempts to intellectualise existence into mere words The post structuralists can be a particular bete noire of mine But a major exception must be Michel Foucault who has made two major contributions to what really matters in life that is, not what we think the world is but how we think the world through so that we can live in it better.The first contribution was to seek to uncover the archaeology his term and genealogy the term is derived from Nietzche of institutions, social norms and techniques of control in society so that we are enabled critically to question why it is that things are as they are This is not to be assumed to be as a generation of Marxists or existentialists might have seen matters the means to a necessary commitment to liberation or revolution in a utopian way On the contrary, understanding how things have come to be is a way of coming to terms with facts on the ground as much as it is of changing them The point of this is to be found in the second contribution.Each person in a sense, this is a development of the existentialist mentality without accepting the existentialists belief in total freedom of choice is a potential creative process, a work of art in itself Each of us is being made in a relationship between materials to hand society and our will to create ourselves No questioning of social norms means a blank canvas but a canvas is there nevertheless, yet, without the canvas or other materials, even found materials, we can produce nothing Both canvas society and our creativity are necessary Our personal art is to will matters to a creative resolution that is all the better for it having investigated and critiqued its own archaeology, its own origins.This is, in fact, startling stuff Rationalist critics consider Foucault to be offering us a narcissistic model of human development in which self regarding humans a socially bend social norms to their own ends wherever and as they can for what is implied to be pure self gratification In fact, the critics have missed the point The narcissism lies in the critics own belief that they can and should bend the world to norms that are unquestioned This is largely because the critics have allowed themselves to become wholly identified with these norms even the norms of rebellion and resistance to norms to the extent of ceasing to have an independent existence of their own They have become their world, over socialised into essentialism Their narcissism lies in their identification with their world, a social ego vaster than that of an individual who is concerned with their own creative development in relation to significant others.The paradox of Foucault s position is that a critical detachment from norms does not mean a war against norms but only the creation of the possibility that norms might not be taken as dogma, that they are norms that create a framework for a liberation This liberation comes from a personal assessment of the relationship between the creative individual and inherited structures of power that includes their own power to define and so manage what power actually is Best personal choices may, indeed, once many individuals engage in their own creation, be truly revolutionary in changing social norms but not through a programme of work, only through a programme of being.There is very muchto Foucault than this As usual, I have elided his position with my own theft of his work which I suspect would be precisely what he would consider appropriate The wider interest in him is less in regard to his potential influence on personal liberation than on his sustained onslaught on inherited modes of defining persons into convenient essences, as well as his analysis of the social structuring of power in which the victim is as complicit as the oppressor The implication of his work is that norms are such that any formal revolution will merely shift the persons doing the oppression and the victims into new roles of equal normality , unless both victim and oppressor come to see their normal practices as inappropriate, inutile, uneconomic and or socially unnecessary In short, any real change must be change in consciousness about power rather than in actual physical control of systems of power.The area of dispute I would have with him is the same as I would have with other post structuralists The analysis of language as creating persons so that persons and society are to oversimplify littlethan language and codes is said to mean that there is no such thing as man To an extent, this is true there is no quintessence of man nor indeed of anything All definitions are fluid so that nothing is fixed over time But this has always led me to the great so what because the fluidity and the ability to participate in that fluidity, by manipulating and appropriating language and codes, restores personality to existence by the back door If it is only through the manipulation of terms to define power relations, a fluid but very real sense of man meant non sexistly engaged in its own creation through the creative force of each and every one of its components, emerges Thisorganic vision may seem dangerously essentialist but this would be a mistake The fluid self definitional process of men operating within language systems creates no point of fixed external essence It is not derived from anythingthan the accumulated transactions between creative individuals yet this provides the basis for the acceptance and destruction of the social norms that at any point in time serves to create a definition of Man meaning the accumulated and present but not future culture in which individual men exist It is not that Society exists but that Man exists as social norms This is not something that Foucault is likely to accept nor probably the reader.A major insight of Foucault has transformed political thinking amongst critics of the existing system even if this by passes a professional political class that is well embedded within the current system of power relations that is, that all those involved in a power relations are complicit with it This is held rightly as a powerful bloc to the acceptability of Marxist socialism as a simple theory of liberation Similarly, the apparent liberation within identity politics which dominated the 1970s and is now coming to its apogee but also to its probable end with the election of Obama and his rivalry with Hillary Clinton in the US isillusion than reality Identity politics merely disrupts the system to the point of bringing it to the brink of collapse, but not because the identity politicians intend it to be brought to the brink as in the accidental toxic effects of the use of political pressure on banks to lend cash to blacks who could never have paid back the loans , but because the identity politicians have worked within a system in which political pressure has been treated as merely one factor within the total system of free market management of money The rest is history and, indeed, may make the current political class history.Foucault s potential for critique is neither of the Right nor of the Left in itself but is a tool for either or neither or something new For those concerned with true redistribution of power and resources, it will help raise the question of how a black or female President can, in any real sense, make any fundamental difference to the liberation of anyone so long as the system and social norms remain as they are To identify oneself primarily as gay, black, woman or indigenous white is to abnegate one s duty to creative personal development Foucault is not the final word on anything His arguments are merely persuasive and suggestive His position is actually ethical rather than political he suggests the permanent training of oneself by oneself as Oksala puts it This does, indeed, resemble s the creation of a work of art but it is not narcissism It is the potential creation of a society of complexity and diversity through individual commitment to new fields of experience, pleasures, relationships, modes of living and thinking We can immediately see here why such thinking is revolutionary because it rejects the use of boxes to set in place our identities It rejects the way that social norms and customs are used to constrain us but it is not by any means a moral Assuming the right spirit in which the creative process is undertaken, liberation is equally liberatory of others, certainly non exploitative and non oppressive and creates in theory an ever widening circle of negotiated freedom Of course, life is not like that Acogent criticism of Foucault is not one of narcissism but of bringing in either utopianism or conservative pessimism depending on the extent of the revolution of consciousness implied by the back door.Anyway, a good introduction Not always an easy read at times but worth it for the clear and useful final chapters which may hit some people with the force of a revelation about what could be possible for us without our seeking to changethan can be changed It might certainly stop futile attendance at political meetings which have no real effect on policy or society and which divert our attention toproductive behaviour at those points in society where we can have most direct personal effect This is a pretty run of the mill Foucault secondary source If you re interested in learningabout his ideas in an overall sense, this one is pretty good, but I think A Very Short Introduction to Foucault was much better, covered mostly the same sources, and was about the same length I prefer that series across the board to the How to Read series The part that made itentertaining for me were all of the nonsensical scribblings of an angry, young, Christian woman who d read the boo This is a pretty run of the mill Foucault secondary source If you re interested in learningabout his ideas in an overall sense, this one is pretty good, but I think A Very Short Introduction to Foucault was much better, covered mostly the same sources, and was about the same length I prefer that series across the board to the How to Read series The part that made itentertaining for me were all of the nonsensical scribblings of an angry, young, Christian woman who d read the book before me and felt like leaving her message in pencil in a library book There were so many good points, e.g in relation to the term Queer Theory, she wrote, Why call it that if that behavior is NORMAL and underlined normal Or in relation to the idea of subjects discovering new ways to live, Oh, I think we ve discovered all the possible perversions Good can exist w o evil would Foucault agree if he were to accede such exists Or are there two co existent necessarily Maybe I m a complete cynic at this point, but it s kind of funny to me when someone is so trapped in their ideological positions that they are incapable of even reading a basic secondary source like this and following its points It s extra funny when the text is about how people have a hard time with reflexivity because they re locked in hierarchies of power and then people use those hierarchies unreflexively to argue against the author and end up just proving their points For Foucault, here is no pure my term individual subject who thinks independently That subject, rather, is a socially constructed object who is the product of its his her time and culture Foucault uses the term, episteme, to illustrate the main periods in the history of thought that form the way a philosophical subject, formed unconsciously as an object, sees the world The language we learn also frames a socially constructed reality That, the author argues, is Foucault s contribution t For Foucault, here is no pure my term individual subject who thinks independently That subject, rather, is a socially constructed object who is the product of its his her time and culture Foucault uses the term, episteme, to illustrate the main periods in the history of thought that form the way a philosophical subject, formed unconsciously as an object, sees the world The language we learn also frames a socially constructed reality That, the author argues, is Foucault s contribution to linguistic analysis Unlike the existentialists, Foucault discounts the role of the individual thinker, but he also shares their belief that we, via a deep awareness, can emancipate ourselves from these chains of time and culture and create ourselves as a work of art This is what he seems to mean by the first chapter title, The Freedom of Philosophy The book is pointed in saying that Foucault does not believe there s a true self and the author argues that Foucault cautions against the assumption that there are anthropological universals truths about human beings that hold in all cultures and all historical times But the way the author states Foucault s objection to human universals is not so much factual It is, rather, because the implication of such facts for what is and what is not normal, particularly regarding the sexuality, race, gender and mental illness that Foucault emphasizes Foucault is correct in seeing the potency of socially constructed notions, but such notions also hide a deeper reality of why we hold them, and with such intensity, in the first place What is the motivation that underlies, for example, the need for power Why are we so tribal Why are we prone to defer to authority or to conform to the group Might there not be examples of human universals, found to some significant degree because of the survival value they provide But at the next level down, might there not be variation in these key human universals variation being the essence of Darwinian evolution so that the notion of true self is not actually a universal self as it might apply to everyone, but as it applies to each of us individually Fear protects everyone a universal , but some arefearful than others In Foucault s examples, the norm of sexuality is not a strict male female division as conventional society would have it, but a variation in the nature of our sexuality being gay, lesbian transsexual, queer, etc And, it s interesting that Foucault s own favored terminology, episteme, ironically is a social construction that denies the existence of a true self In other words, Foucault s own philosophical framing prevents us from seeing those deeper levels of knowledge about ourselves that would allow the artful re creation of ourselves in ways that aretruthful and healthy for ourselves and society A good intro to Foucalt, this book definitely makes my recent read of Madnessunderstandable. Foucault is just as, if not , relevant today than he was during the 60 s and 70 s The questions he raises about for example mental health, the institution of prisons, gender identity, critique of the government as a form of resistance, are all burning questions of our day And, of course, he exhorts the individual to resist characterizing themselves by society s categories and allow themselves to chart a path that fulfills them thereby blurring the boundary between the creator of art and Foucault is just as, if not , relevant today than he was during the 60 s and 70 s The questions he raises about for example mental health, the institution of prisons, gender identity, critique of the government as a form of resistance, are all burning questions of our day And, of course, he exhorts the individual to resist characterizing themselves by society s categories and allow themselves to chart a path that fulfills them thereby blurring the boundary between the creator of art and the creation Oksala does a great job expanding upon and making Foucault, who is abstruse at times, accessible to all Having downloaded this book I felt I was able to read it however I wanted Since there was no compulsion to enjoy it, I read it as quickly as possible so that I would walk into Foucault with some overview.In college, over the course of 2 3 weeks, I read about half History of Madness I remember liking the book, and I remember the parts of it I read I do not remember why specifically I stopped reading it I think it was because I wanted to readshort stories I was in school for writing, Having downloaded this book I felt I was able to read it however I wanted Since there was no compulsion to enjoy it, I read it as quickly as possible so that I would walk into Foucault with some overview.In college, over the course of 2 3 weeks, I read about half History of Madness I remember liking the book, and I remember the parts of it I read I do not remember why specifically I stopped reading it I think it was because I wanted to readshort stories I was in school for writing, and I felt I did not have time I ended up selling the book.I read the first part of history of sexuality a semester or two later in a sexuality and representation class I think there were parts of it that I may have read quickly I think there were probably some parts of it I just outright did not read It was not that I wasn t interested in it so much as I didn t like having to read it for class, and I wanted to do what I wanted to do Regardless, I feel like I know roughly what the book was about I remember the discussions about the layout of the church and the victorian medicalization of sexuality The second of these ideas was mentioned in this How to read I plan on reading discipline and punish Quickly, if it s possible I can t speed read everything Some stuff just doesn t seem to allow for it I never used to read this way and I still wont read fiction this way But, I was able to fly through Kant, so I figure, why not I m taking my time with the stuff I want to read, and the stuff I feel like I should, I m speed reading mostly just to know what s in it |PDF ♂ How to Read Foucault ♩ Michel Foucault was a philosopher of extraordinary talent, political activist, social theorist, cultural critic, and creative historian He irreversibly shaped the way we think today about such controversial issues as power, sexuality, madness, and criminalityJohanna Oksala explores the conceptual tools that Foucault gave us for constructing new forms of thinking as well as for smashing old certainties She offers a lucid account of him as a thinker whose persistent aim was to challenge the self evidence and necessity of our current experiences, practices, and institutions by showing their historical development and, therefore, contingencyExtracts are taken from the whole range of Foucault s writings his books, essays, lectures, and interviews including the major works History of Madness, The Order of Things, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality Foucault had been on the periphery of my studies at undergraduate, now a bit older I realised I d never get round to reading his huge and notoriously dense original texts so not wanting to miss out entirely I looked for an introductory book Oksala s book is just that and an excellent one at that, she covers 10 themes which she skillfully links together to track the evolution of his ideas at the heart of which is the social construction of the self by external and internal forces I d recomm Foucault had been on the periphery of my studies at undergraduate, now a bit older I realised I d never get round to reading his huge and notoriously dense original texts so not wanting to miss out entirely I looked for an introductory book Oksala s book is just that and an excellent one at that, she covers 10 themes which she skillfully links together to track the evolution of his ideas at the heart of which is the social construction of the self by external and internal forces I d recommend this book to anyone as an excellent primer on Foucault and wider ideas of sociology 3 1 2 stars.review forthcoming, eventually, after working through foucault s works. A great primer that will help the curious reader misunderstand, a little less, what is proving to be the most important thinker of late 20th and early 21st century.