46 pages 1 hour read

Michel Foucault

The History of Sexuality: Volume 1

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1976

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Key Figures

Michel Foucault

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a French philosopher, social and political critic, and historian. He examined power structures and how they manifested within systems of mental illness, incarceration, education, knowledge, and sexuality. Foucault was often considered part of the post-structuralist and post-modernist movements, though he disavowed these labels. Like many philosophers and theorists of his generation, Foucault began his career as a structuralist but then began to critique the structuralist theoretical framework. Rooted in the ideas of the linguist Ferdinad de Saussure and the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, among others, structuralism rejected the centrality of individual choice in determining history and culture, instead placing human behaviors within the context of larger social, historical, and narrative structures—arguing that those structures determined which choices were possible or even imaginable in any given time and place. Post-structuralists break apart the cause-effect relationships between context and action. Similarly, postmodernism rejects the idea of a grand historical narrative, focusing instead on how systems of power use those narratives to perpetuate themselves. Rather than viewing history as a linear progression of related events, post-structuralists and postmodernists uphold the discontinuities that fail to align with larger cultural trends.