Michel Foucault (born June 15, 1926, Poitiers, France; d. June 25, 1984, Paris) was a French philosopher and historian associated with post-structuralism whose work in the study of the cultural bases of sexuality, psychology and criminology was broadly influential within and beyond the academy, also speaking out against Mass surveillance, although he was more concerned with America having mass surveillance than other countries. Foucault was primarily interested in how power was continually reinforced through the daily routines of modern life, in settings such as school, the workplace, the medical system and sexual behavior. In regards to this, in Discipline and Punish, he said "Is it surprising, that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?" Foucault was an atheist. See also: Atheism and postmodernism
He also was largely responsible for the philosophy department of the then-recently created University of Vincennes being infamously radicalized, and he participated with 500 students in a takeover of the school, hurling projectiles at cops to "resist", as part of a solidarity movement for the Sorbonne student takeover that same day in January 1969. He also was heavily influenced by the Marquis de Sade's teachings, although he would later admit that he thought his idol "hadn't gone far enough."
In the 1970s, Foucault, in a similar manner to Norman Mailer petitioning for the release of the killer Jack Abbott, proceeded to petition for the release of French bank robber Roger Knobelspiess from jail, arguing that the method used to imprison him a form of torture and an abuse of the law. Similar to Mailer and Abbot, a large part of why Foucault tried to petition for the release of Knobelspiess was simply because of his being a writer. Also like Abbot, shortly after Knobelspiess was released in 1981, he ended up in jail again in 1983 for the same charge that landed him in jail in the first place. Foucault, when confronted with this, denied that Knobelspiess was guilty of the first charge simply because of the recent arrest, and said that "You are a danger to yourselves and a danger to us, if, that is…you do not wish to find yourself in the hand of a legal system that has been put to sleep by arbitrariness. You are also a historical danger. For, like a society, a justice which has to question itself can exist only if it works on itself and its institutions."
In 1971, Foucault entered a blind debate with linguist and fellow radical Noam Chomsky, with Foucault's answers in relation to what should happen if the Proletariat were to take over shocked even Chomsky, causing him to admit after the debate that he "felt like [Chomsky] was talking to someone who didn’t inhabit the same moral universe." Specifically, the responses in question were "When the proletariat takes power, it may be quite possible that the proletariat will exert towards the classes over which it has just triumphed, a violent, dictatorial and even bloody power. I can’t see what objection one could make to this", as well as replying to Chomsky's insistence that the proletariat "must act as sensitive and responsible human beings" that such ideas as responsibility, sensitivity, justice, and law were merely “tokens of ideology” that completely lacked legitimacy as well as stating “The proletariat doesn’t wage war against the ruling class because it considers such a war to be just,” he argued. “The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because … it wants to take power.” Similarly, he also entered a debate with Maoists a year later, and in response to the concept of a People's Court by the Maoists, advocated for popular justice without any courts at all in an explicit comparison to the September Massacres during the French Revolution in 1792.
He died of AIDS due to his libertine lifestyle, in particular homosexuality, after discovering the presence of a subculture in Sacramento Bay, California, and knowingly infected several others in bath houses. One of his last words was, in a dismissal of safe sex, "to die for the love of boys, what could be more beautiful." He also was a pedophile, and he often acted as an apologist for homosexuality and pedophilia by acting as if distinctions between heterosexuality and homosexuality, as well as between adults and children, didn't exist and that since birth every person was a sexual organism (it should be noted that Simone de Beauvoir made a similar claim in the late 1970s regarding her own preying on her female students, many of whom were grossly under age).
His major works include
- Folie et déraison, Paris: Gallimard, 1966 (Madness and Civilization, translated by Richard Howard, New York: Pantheon, 1965)
- Naissance de la clinique, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1963 (The Birth of the Clinic, translated by A. Sheridan Smith, New York: Pantheon, 1973)
- Les mots et les choses, Paris: Gallimard, 1966 (The Order of Things, New York: Vintage, 1973)
- L'archéologie du savoir, Paris: Gallimard, 1969 (The Archaeology of Knowledge, translated by A. Sheridan Smith, New York: Harper and Row, 1972)
- Surveiller et punir, Paris: Gallimard, 1975 (Discipline and Punish, translated by Alan Sheridan, New York: Pantheon, 1977)
- Histoire de la sexualité, 3 volumes: La volonté de savoir, L'usage des plaisirs, and Le souici de soi, Paris: Gallimard, 1976 (History of Sexuality, 3 volumes: Introduction, The Uses of Pleasure, and Care of the Self, translated by Robert Hurley, New York: Vintage Books, 1988–90).
"Michel Foucault", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- "America: Exceptionally good or exceptionally evil?". WND.
- Religion and Culture Por Michel Foucault,Jeremy Carrette, page 15.
- "The perversions of M. Foucault by Roger Kimball - The New Criterion". newcriterion.com.
- Miller, James. 2000. The Passion of Michel Foucault. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass. 203-206.
Foucault: In my view one shouldn't start with the court as a particular form, and then go on to ask how or on what conditions there could be a people's court; one should start with popular justice, with acts of justice by the people, and go on to ask what place a court would have in this. We must ask whether such acts of popular justice can or cannot be organised in the form of a court. Now my hypothesis is not so much that the court is the natural expression of popular justice, but rather that its historical function is to ensnare it, to control it and to strangle it, by re-inscribing it within institutions which are typical of a state apparatus. For example, in 1792, when war with neighbouring countries broke out and the Parisian workers were called on to go and get themselves killed, they replied: 'We're not going to go before we've brought our enemies within our own country to court. While we'll be out there exposed to danger, they'll be protected by the prisons they're locked up in. They're only waiting for us to leave in order to come out and set up the old order of things all over again. In any case, those who are in power today want to use against us--in order to bring us back under control--the dual pressure of enemies invading from abroad and those who threaten us at home. We are not going to fight against the former without having first dealt with the latter.' The September executions were at one and the same time an act of war against internal enemies, a political act against the manipulations of those in power, and an act of vengeance against the oppressive classes. Was this not--during a period of violent revolutionary struggle--at least an approximation to an act of popular justice; a reaction to oppression, strategically effective and politically necessary? Now, no sooner had the executions started in September, when men from the Paris Commune--or from that quarter--intervened and set about staging a court: judges behind a table, representing a third party standing between the people 'screaming for vengeance', and the accused who were either 'guilty' or 'innocent'; an investigation to establish the 'truth' or to obtain a 'confession'; deliberation to find out what was 'just'; this form was imposed in an authoritarian manner. Can we not see the embryonic, albeit fragile form of a state apparatus reappearing here? The possibility of class oppression? Is not the setting up of a neutral institution standing between the people and its enemies, capable of establishing the dividing line between the true and false, the guilty and innocent, the just and the unjust, is this not a way of resisting popular justice? A way of disarming it in the struggle it is conducting in reality in favour of an arbitration in the realm of the ideal? This is why I am wondering whether the court is not a form of popular justice but rather its first deformation.
- Quoted in Mark Mark Lilla, The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics New York: New York Review of Books, 2001, 157.