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Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

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Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault examines the archeology of madness in the West from 1500 to 1800 – from the late Middle Ages, when insanity was still considered part of everyday life and fools and lunatics walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, asylums were first built, Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault examines the archeology of madness in the West from 1500 to 1800 – from the late Middle Ages, when insanity was still considered part of everyday life and fools and lunatics walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, asylums were first built, and walls were erected between the “insane” and the rest of humanity.


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Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault examines the archeology of madness in the West from 1500 to 1800 – from the late Middle Ages, when insanity was still considered part of everyday life and fools and lunatics walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, asylums were first built, Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here. Michel Foucault examines the archeology of madness in the West from 1500 to 1800 – from the late Middle Ages, when insanity was still considered part of everyday life and fools and lunatics walked the streets freely, to the time when such people began to be considered a threat, asylums were first built, and walls were erected between the “insane” and the rest of humanity.

30 review for Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la Folie à l'âge Classique = Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault When it was first published in France in 1961, few had heard of a thirty-four year old philosopher by the name of Michel Foucault. By the time an abridged English edition was published in 1967 as Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault had shaken the intellectual world. Foucault's first major book, Madness and Civilization is an examination of the evolving meaning of madness in European culture Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la Folie à l'âge Classique = Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault When it was first published in France in 1961, few had heard of a thirty-four year old philosopher by the name of Michel Foucault. By the time an abridged English edition was published in 1967 as Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault had shaken the intellectual world. Foucault's first major book, Madness and Civilization is an examination of the evolving meaning of madness in European culture, law, politics, philosophy and medicine from the Middle Ages to the end of the eighteenth century, and a critique of historical method and the idea of history. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و پنجم ماه آوریل سال 2011میلادی عنوان: تاریخ جنون؛ نویسنده: میشل فوکو؛ مترجم: فاطمه ولیانی؛ تهران، شهر کتاب، هرمس، 1377؛ در 340ص؛ شابک 9644461407؛ موضوع بیماری روانی جنون و بیخردی از نویسندگان فرانسوی - سده 20م در این کتاب، که نخستین اثز عمده از «میشل فوکو» است، معنی و مفهوم همیشه متغیرِ «جنون»، در فرهنگ اروپا، حقوق، سیاست، فلسفه و پزشکی، از سده‌ های میانی، تا پایان سده ی هجدهم میلادی را بررسی، و روش تاریخی، و ایده ی تاریخ را، نقد می‌کند؛ این نشانه ی عطفی، در اندیشه ی «فوکو»، به دور از پدیدار شناسی، و به سمت ساختار گرایی است؛ هر چند ایشان از زبان پدیدار شناسی، برای توصیف یک روند (تجربه ی) در حال تحول، از دیوانه به «آن دیگری»، استفاده می‌کند، ایشان این تحول را، به نفوذ ساختارهای اجتماعی توانمند ویژه‌ ای، نسبت می‌دهند؛ «میشل فوکو»، فیلسوف «فرانسوی»، از تابلوی کشتی احمق‌ها (کشتی احمق‌ها اثری است در سبک فرا واقعگرایی اثر «هیرونیموس بوش»، که در بین سال‌های 1490میلادی تا سال 1500میلادی، با رنگ روغن و بر روی چوب آفریده شد)، برای روی جلد کتاب «تاریخ جنون»، استفاده کرده‌ است؛ تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 02/11/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    So much more engaging and grounded than The History of Sexuality. Here Foucault takes a wide-ranging look at how madness has been constructed in Western civ from the time of the Late Middle Ages to the advent of psychoanalysis, homing in on the long eighteenth century, which the writer brands the classical period, when the mad, indigent, and criminal—then one undifferentiated group—were confined away from mainstream society, viewed as moral failures, and subjected to intense regimes of punishmen So much more engaging and grounded than The History of Sexuality. Here Foucault takes a wide-ranging look at how madness has been constructed in Western civ from the time of the Late Middle Ages to the advent of psychoanalysis, homing in on the long eighteenth century, which the writer brands the classical period, when the mad, indigent, and criminal—then one undifferentiated group—were confined away from mainstream society, viewed as moral failures, and subjected to intense regimes of punishment aiming to purify them and fix their relation to the world. The history’s idiosyncratic and patchy, not comprehensive, but Foucault’s train of thought is almost always interesting to follow.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    Some of what we read here has become commonplace in the world of ideas, but this is where it started for many thinkers of the twentieth century. In this volume Foucault illustrates how notions like madness are socially and culturally constructed in any given age and place. The criteria for madness are made up, by us, they in part invented for particular social and political purposes. Leper colonies housed/confined/kept from society those with this disease, and when leprosy largely died out there Some of what we read here has become commonplace in the world of ideas, but this is where it started for many thinkers of the twentieth century. In this volume Foucault illustrates how notions like madness are socially and culturally constructed in any given age and place. The criteria for madness are made up, by us, they in part invented for particular social and political purposes. Leper colonies housed/confined/kept from society those with this disease, and when leprosy largely died out there were these places of confinement we could use for the poor, criminals, and anyone we didn't like, and this is what we do today, though our ideas about madness--what it is and how to treat it, how to exclude those that have it in various ways--are changing constantly. Foucault goes on to write what he calls "archeaologies" of other disciplines and institutions, but he begins here. This was his dissertation, or a version of it, written on the basis of his study in a variety of clinics, his study of philosophy and psychology, and his own experience with therapy. It's his first big book, maybe his masterpiece. There are books on the history of madness, done in sort of chronological fashion, getting to some sort of accumulative notion of what it is. This is how arguments are usually made since the Enlightenment, according to the rules of Reason. But Foucault isn't trying to write in this fashion, he has in mind exploring the varieties of madness (as with William James, not what religion is, but The Varieties of Religious experience), showing how madness is depicted in art in various periods, in the Renaissance for instance as a part of the world, as a source (sometimes) of insight and wisdom and difference and mystical or just creative vision, then shifting dramatically in the classical period to horror, to something we need to fear and confine. As I said, in the forty years since it was written, ideas of the social construction of reality have become sort of now commonplace, but it was groundbreaking then, work from one of the 2 or 3 greatest thinkers of the twentieth century, maybe, from someone who may have begun this journey in the late forties when he was taken by his parents to a therapist who suggested a "cure" for his being gay (something that was indeed considered a disorder by psychiatry until relatively recently, though as we know, some people in the world still think it is something one can "cure"). Madness & Civ. is also a work contending with the universalist assumptions of Grand Theory (such as psychoanalysis or Marxism) as One Central theory for understanding How the World Works. Later, he would himself explore the structures and language (or discourse) of institutions and disciplines to see the pervasive presence of Power operating everywhere, which many would see as his own Grand Theory of the World. Foucault wants to show how power is bound up with knowledge. What we understand knowledge to be is a political consideration, sometimes. I have used this book in a class I teach which is a sort of literary inquiry into madness. How is it depicted? How is it defined in various settings, in certain stories? How is related to the psychic, paranormal, fantasy, horror, faith? Why is magic not considered knowledge in most settings? I also use the book in a course on language and literacy. We inevitably talk about our families, our own experiences with madness/psychiatry/how we treat madness today/the homeless crazies that ride public transportation, largely untreated today. Foucault, with Thomas Szasz and others, were seen as part of an anti-psychiatry movement. Maybe the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill came about in part because of this movement. I think in general Foucault, following the Renaissance view of madness, romanticizes it as a kind of alternative truth. And I worked in a psych hospital for a number of years and worried about the over-medicalization of people. I still do. But I have a son who sometimes experiences psychotic episodes; I think without some treatment he would not be able to fully function in the world. I live in Chicago where there are thousands of mentally ill folks on the streets, inadequately treated, in my opinion. And in my view you can romanticize all of that. These folks aren't just free; many of them are actually homeless. So while I think Foucault's book is brilliant--I really do; I like Kind Lear's wise fool and the art of Bosch and the poetry of sweet mad John Clare--it also has to be understood with some caution.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fergus

    This book is nearly a Masterpiece. A Masterpiece with an Unstated Premise. That Premise is only DARKLY suggested here. But the book purports to be a history of the arrival on the world stage of the Mental Health Establishment. In laborious and CLINICAL detail. Why my capital letter stresses? Ah, because of a reason that is never divulged by the author. But its existence remains unsettling. For it can lead to one conclusion: the Hippocratic Institution can be Hypocritical. Let me illustrate... While This book is nearly a Masterpiece. A Masterpiece with an Unstated Premise. That Premise is only DARKLY suggested here. But the book purports to be a history of the arrival on the world stage of the Mental Health Establishment. In laborious and CLINICAL detail. Why my capital letter stresses? Ah, because of a reason that is never divulged by the author. But its existence remains unsettling. For it can lead to one conclusion: the Hippocratic Institution can be Hypocritical. Let me illustrate... While hospitalized, I had a shrink assigned to me whom I will refer to as Doctor T. When I would become noncompliant, he would duly ratchet up the level of my "punishments." Morally deeply conflicted, he was later convicted of using his male patients as sex toys. Still waters run deep. Not so still now, with the fresh ridicule of his conviction, his.mind has learned the truth of the adage, "Physician, HEAL YOURSELF!" A painful process for him no doubt. And Foucault as well convicts the hypocrites in the medical ranks. Of course, there are fewer and fewer escapes for us nowadays from under The Machine's Dark Wing. Foucault thinks that's on purpose. Now, the great, oft-forbidden Foucault started his chequered career as a mental health worker in a lunatic asylum. He must have seen some DOOZIES there. For Nothing escaped this man’s fiery gaze. Injustices? Maybe. Momentary Lapses of Reason? Perhaps. Trumped-up Cases? Judge for yourself... Now, when I was admitted to hospital in 1970 for evaluation, I had the uncanny suspicion I was constantly under surveillance. They labelled me paranoid. I think now they were right in their assessment. Using the plain common sense I’ve painfully learned over the years, in fact, I KNOW they were right. But the whole issue of surveillance WAS uncanny to me. How come they knew things in advance of my telling them? Looking back now, I know the technology we have now just wasn’t there in 1970. But reading Foucault’s study of asylums, with his coincidental coupling of psychiatry with the Age of Reason, though, even he has doubts. Surely he hasn’t solved his own problem. He’s like me: He can’t THINK OUTSIDE OF HIS OWN BOX. Nor can he suggest a resolution... Nor can I. For in seeking refuge in the Law in 1970, I lost my rights. Therefore I now have no recourse to the Law, since the Law removed me from the world’s judgement. It’s hard nowadays for folks to understand what it would be to all-of-a-sudden turn into a Persona Non Grata. It hits hard, and cuts deeply. So modern medication for us bipolar cases contains soporifics. We forget. But my wonderful late friend John could never forget. A fellow outpatient in those early years, he could never FORGET his acute embarrassment over his own gaffes. For embarrassment had been BEATEN into him. So he always remembered. And he taught me - oh, how he taught me! He taught me to live on the edge and to ALWAYS REMEMBER MYSELF. And that - not soporifics - is the Path to True Healing... The only recourse I have now to losing my rights is an appeal to God. And I know I’ll see no justice done until the Next World. But why does Foucault’s bitter Compassion burn up these pages, threatening in its sheer Fury to Engulf the Book in its Flames? He’s like the Dark Peter Pan who graces the pages of the riveting novel by Brom, Child Thief; a book that - like the song by the Doors - goes to the End of the Night. Take the Highway to the End of the Night - End of the Night End of the Night - Take a Journey to the Bright Midnight - End of the Night End of the Night. I think you’ll see that it’s because of the same monstrous coupling of watcher and victim you see in another of his masterworks, Discipline and Punish. One methodology for two separate and contentious areas, the penal and the psychiatric establishments. It was all too much for this one writer to productively encompass and resolve. Simply because Foucault’s colossal anger at the world’s injustices always got the better of him. You cannot, as Stephane Mallarme did, kill your own puppets - until all your passion is spent. And Foucault seems always to have FED his own fire. A mistake. You CAN, however, kill your puppets by faith. The process is long and hard, though; and you can have no recourse to earthly justice. W.B. Yeats summed it all up in his magnificent Sailing to Byzantium: O Sages standing in God’s holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the fire, perns in a gyre, And be the singing masters of my soul. And if only Foucault had learned to refine his heart’s anxious passion in the crucible of his Burning Soul! And waited patiently for grace. For we can never resolve the aporias of our modern world if we have no light within our own souls. And unless we have faith that God will untie those knots - And give us Ultimate Freedom. But Foucault burns on, railing endlessly against the Hidden Lie - That leads to the seductive reversal of Virtue - And the black portal to a more sophisticated Postmodern Reign of Terror: At the End of the Night. And yonder all before us lie Deserts of Vast Eternity.

  5. 4 out of 5

    AC

    UPDATE: I realize now (as I read Dreyfus and Rabinow) that I completely misread this book. I read it too quickly, and the book is maddeningly eccentric and so difficult to comprehend. Further, I read it without sufficient context either of this book itself, or of Foucault's corpus, or of the philosophical background in which or against which MF is operating. The problem is intensified by the fact that Foucault is one of those thinkers who changed his mind extensively from first to last on importa UPDATE: I realize now (as I read Dreyfus and Rabinow) that I completely misread this book. I read it too quickly, and the book is maddeningly eccentric and so difficult to comprehend. Further, I read it without sufficient context either of this book itself, or of Foucault's corpus, or of the philosophical background in which or against which MF is operating. The problem is intensified by the fact that Foucault is one of those thinkers who changed his mind extensively from first to last on important matters, and therefore the philosophy of this early work is theoretically incomplete and does not fully know where it will end up by the end of MF's life. Add to that that there are out-and-out absurdities of method (his historical method) and metaphysical positions that are ridiculous that are both implicit (or explicit) within structures and ideas that are nonetheless profound and of great signficance, with the result that the naive reader (which I am -- especially given how little I know about Continental thought) can hardly disengage and disentangle or, consequently, even read the book at hand with sufficient clarity to get it in any focus. People assume that the way to read a philosopher is simply to jump in and read the text. This, in my experience, is usually a great mistake. While one cannot understand the expository literature without familiarity with the text, one cannot often really understand the text without the help and guidance of those "who have gone down this path before" -- whether teachers or books. Thus, a good grounding in good secondary literature is often essential to even being able to begin read the texts with any understanding -- especially if the material is fundamentally foreign to one's way of thinking or intellectual experiences -- postwar thought for me; classical (ancient Greek) thought for others. This is not true for all thinkers -- some can be read and the secondary literature simply debases them. But it is true for many, and seems (for me) to be true for Postmodernism. At any rate -- this should be re-rated. Either to five, or maybe to something else. Whatever... One last point - regarding MF's Archaeology and the general claim that all knowledge or discourse is mediated (or indeed, conditioned) by assumptions that cannot be accessed -- that is, on the postmodern claims of the relatively of all knowledge or discourse. If one has to carve up a turkey, or pull apart a car engine -- or, to maintain the analogy, draw a diagram (a discourse) of the skeleton or the engine to be carved or taken apart -- will this diagram be contaminated by 'theory'? or deep structures? And why not? For the simple reason that the reality has, at least at the given level, a real structure to it - and it is this real structure that justifies and makes possible analysis -- as a neutral procedure. Thus, for Plato, it is the reality of the theory of Ideas that makes the dialectic and diaeresis possible and effective -- and not the dialectic that "proves" that the Ideas exist. Without the underlying structural realities, the procedures would run into contradictions at every turn, and that they do not in fact do so is proof, by a reductio ad absurdum, of the reality of the Ideas. Provisionally, of course... One last point -- about Kuhn's treatment of Aristotle's Physics - which Dreyfus and Rabinow discuss --. Much of what seems "strange" in Aristotle's Physics can be explained simply by two assumptions that were clearly false: He assumes, in cosmogony, that the earth is at the center of the universe, and had to adjust his mathematics to this assumption. The best book on this, apart of course, from Neugebauer's Exact Sciences in Antiquity, is D.R Dicks, Early Greek Astronomy; and because he assumes that rest is the natural state of a body: See Henri Carteron, La notion De Force Dans Le Systeme d'Aristote. ORIGINAL REVIEW: What can one say – how can one rate – a work like this? Certainly, Foucault is a genius… there are portions of this work that are sheer poetry. Yet much of it is errant nonsense – it’s method is completely absurd and fraudulant – yet there lurk beneath the method and the errant – certain deep intuitions – hurled at the reader – hurled at the void – in ways calculated to undermine their seriousness by overvaluing their meaning by… you see, the recursive loop here…? Rated as philosophy or as poetry, this would receive 5-stars – for its originality, if nothing else. And for its inevitable working out of the modern and postmodern logic of self-annihiliation.... As a work of scholarship or history or, indeed, in its method, it receives one-star. For its influence, which has been baleful – both morally and in the Academy – one star – for it’s flash in the night of a despair that Foucault himself was moving to resolve – had he lived, he’d have ended up perhaps a Platonist… well, there was an evolution of Foucault, no question… 5-stars. So I’ll give this review just one star, so as to jar the reader. Foucault would approve.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    Philosophy for Foucault is a discourse, I guess a series of texts that cluster around a single topic and have a meaning as much based on their history as their current ‘meaning’. It is too easy to get tangled in knots with words here – but this book is actually quite a simple read and incredibly interesting. There is the bit that is often quoted - the idea that hysteria was once considered to be a woman’s madness caused by her womb wandering around her body and thereby causing mental problems. I Philosophy for Foucault is a discourse, I guess a series of texts that cluster around a single topic and have a meaning as much based on their history as their current ‘meaning’. It is too easy to get tangled in knots with words here – but this book is actually quite a simple read and incredibly interesting. There is the bit that is often quoted - the idea that hysteria was once considered to be a woman’s madness caused by her womb wandering around her body and thereby causing mental problems. I’m quite sure it would. But the truly interesting bits of this are around madness as a social construction. It is fascinating that prior to the rise of capitalism madness did not really exist. There were town idiots, but these people were often protected as being possessed by spirits or something similar. Apparently Bedlam, the mental asylum, had previously been a hospital for leprosy and once leprosy no longer infected Europe it was converted into a mental asylum - somehow we had coped prior to this without such asylums. Foucault’s point being that our society needs outcasts and when there were no longer any lepers we created madmen. There is remarkable stuff about tours of asylums conducted by the inmates who might throw a bit of a turn along and way and need to be replaced by another inmate. I know that up until the late 1800 such tours were still popular forms of weekend entertainment in Melbourne. The relationship between madness and unemployment – how being unemployed was a clear sign of being insane – helped put many people into work houses of the mad. This really is a fascinating book and well worth reading. If I have concerns about it, they are mainly around the idea that by defining madness as a social construction it did allow governments to close down institutions and put the mad onto the streets with no care and no protection.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I must admit, I didn't read this entire book. However, I do feel I read enough of it to get the general idea. Foucault is trying to distance himself from history here. He dislikes the "victorious" narrative of history and instead seeks to build an anthropology based around one aspect of the human sciences, employing the method of "archaeology." Borrowing Nietzsche's genealogy approach, Foucault excavates various uses of confinement or separation of the "madman" overtime, and looks at shifts and I must admit, I didn't read this entire book. However, I do feel I read enough of it to get the general idea. Foucault is trying to distance himself from history here. He dislikes the "victorious" narrative of history and instead seeks to build an anthropology based around one aspect of the human sciences, employing the method of "archaeology." Borrowing Nietzsche's genealogy approach, Foucault excavates various uses of confinement or separation of the "madman" overtime, and looks at shifts and discontinuities in the usage of madness and how society (of course, always French) seeks to deal with them. First the mad are put in boats and floated out to see, then they are kept in general penal facilities, and then put in their own special asylums, where even more shades of madness can be teased out. The mad are deemed unreasonable and unintelligible by society, and therefore no attempt is made to hear their voice, which Foucault represents as "silence" or a "murmur." Rational man, throughout all of these periods, finds it necessary to find a mad Other and cordon him off. Reason needs an intelligible unreason in order to define itself. Enter "homo dialecticus." In the appendix we see a hint of what may be Foucault the cultural theorist, hypothesizing that humans need unreason, in the form of dreams, fantasies, madness, etc., in order to define our existences. In the end, however, it is hard to get to any idea of a real "truth" beneath these dialectics, as each side is a cultural construct. In this text, we also see the beginnings of Foucault's ideas about sites serving as technologies of policing, which he will expand in later works dealing both with external policing and internal "self-care."

  8. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    Madness and Civilization (1961) is Michel Foucault’s first major work and forms, together with The Birth of the Clinic (1963), his first examination of the way our unconscious a priori linguistic structures order our knowledge of the world – in particular the way how specific syntaxes determine our perception, communication and action regarding life, death, health, disease and madness. While The Birth of the Clinic is a rather straightforward text and can be understood on a first reading, Madnes Madness and Civilization (1961) is Michel Foucault’s first major work and forms, together with The Birth of the Clinic (1963), his first examination of the way our unconscious a priori linguistic structures order our knowledge of the world – in particular the way how specific syntaxes determine our perception, communication and action regarding life, death, health, disease and madness. While The Birth of the Clinic is a rather straightforward text and can be understood on a first reading, Madness and Civilization is much less accessible as a work. This is because Foucault, in most chapters, uses a highly peculiar literary style that weaves science, art, religion, etc. together in a narrative that purports to portray the radical change in our perception of madness in the eighteenth century. The work is full of metaphors and illustrations from artworks. This leaves the reader with a problem of interpretation: since Foucault purports to simply describe (and not explain) phenomena; each description being unconnected (whether causally or chronologically) to others; and each description being heavily entrenched in contemporary political ideology, social structures and a plethora of cultural factors; this all makes it very hard to evaluate Foucault’s descriptions. Add to this the highly selective nature of the work (similar to The Birth of the Clinic), and we have a very difficult book. Difficult in both interpreting, understanding and evaluating. The parameters of Madness and Civilizations are the late Middle Ages/Renaissance and mid-nineteenth century. Within this historical period, Foucault explores how each time and place differed in respect to how people perceived madness, talked about it, reacted to it, and institutionalized it in social structures. This, according to Foucault, reveals how a major and radical shift happened in the eighteenth century – a shift that is still with us to today. Without going into all the intricacies and meticulous descriptions of Foucault’s analysis, the central thesis seems to be as follows. During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance leprosy formed a principle of exclusion and rituals – sufferers were excluded from society and there was a whole web of rituals woven around them. With the disappearance of leprosy this whole structure broke down. Gradually, madness took over the role as principle of exclusion and ritual. But not in the same way. Depending on the historical period, fools were regarded as either a confrontation with death or a transcendence of death. In other words: the fool was moved by transcendental inspiration – this, of course, often had a highly religious connotation. Fools were visible for society and many a time even regarded with approval – they were the hope of transcendental inspiration for the fallen lot of human beings. This all started to change in the seventeenth century. Religious wars, famines and economic crises changed the social-economic structures of society. For the first time since the disappearance of leprosy there emerged a new line of demarcation in society: that between those that worked and those that didn’t (for whatever reason). Since poverty was deemed to be the effect of not working, poverty was viewed as a sin, transforming not working into morally reprehensible behaviour. This radicalized into European-wide programmes to lock up beggars, vagabonds, the poor, the sick, the elderly, etc. Of course, the mad were included in this programme. As an effect, the seventeenth century saw the institutionalization of General Hospitals (France), workhouses (England) and Zuchthäusern (Germany) – all different names for the same concept: a concentration camp for forced labour and moral re-education. Foucault emphasizes the bourgeois social structures underlying this movement. Even though the mad were imprisoned and horribly mistreated, they were not seen as a distinct group of people, demanding a separate approach. All people who couldn’t or wouldn’t work were simply rounded up and put into these camps. This all changed in the eighteenth century. This was the age of Enlightenment: in the wake of Newton’s mechanics the entire universe, including mankind, had to be understood by reason. This also meant that human behaviour, and thus morality, had to be founded in reason. With reason as the summum bonum of humanity, there inevitably has to open up a schism: there are always people who act unreasonable – if not simply in the eyes of others (those Enlightened minds, for example). This period saw the emergence of Unreason as a concept: while man was a rational animal (echoing Aristotle), sometimes he is unreasonable – and to the extent he is unreasonable, he is inhuman. Unreason and inhumanity in human beings were perceived with shame by (reasonable) society. The solution to this social problem is confinement: simply remove the unreasonable from society. Lock them up, make them – literally – disappear. Only release them when they have regained their reason. But Unreason is not madness. While unreasonable people were deemed to have lost (a port of) their humanity, there was a logical endpoint to this: the point were a human being has lost all his humanity. This was madness: it was inhumanity at its highest, transforming itself at this point in animality. In other words: the mad have fallen to animal nature, while the unreasonable still have some degree of humanity. Whereas inhumanity provoked shame and thus removal through confinement, animality means all restrictions of confinement can be removed. The madman wasn’t considered as a sick human but rather as a healthy animal which in its pure state of nature roamed in ultimate freedom. And like wild beasts, the madman was controlled through discipline and brutalization. And like animals, he wasn’t removed from society but exposed to it – people could visit madhouses (after paying, of course) to witness the Fall of Man and to wallow in experiences of superior compassion. In short: during the Enlightenment madness was viewed as the extreme empirical appearance of unreason, or as Foucault writes: “unreason is the canvas on which madness is painted.” Madness only appears on the horizon of Unreason; and while the latter demanded removal through confinement, the former demanded exposure and punishment through confinement. Of course, this is only one side of the question of madness. Another side is the way madness was viewed as a natural manifestation through the scientific lens. This also changed radically over the period Foucault describes. In general outlines: up to the sixteenth century medicine was based on humours; during the seventeenth century (starting with Descartes) this changed to a mechanical model of animal spirits moving through the material body and interacting with the soul (introducing the notion of causality); and during the eighteenth century this culminated in a medicine of solids and fluids (bodily qualities and their relations). Since passion was viewed as the necessary condition for madness (or even as a radicalization of them), and passions being explained differently on these different medical models, the notion of madness changed as well. During the Enlightenment, the madman was deemed to be a manifestation of nothingness. That is because madness was deemed to be the affirmation of absurd imaginations – i.e. the dreamer isn’t mad since he doesn’t affirm his absurd imaginations, while the madman does affirm those. With introducing the notion of affirmation, Foucault is able to insert his theory that language serves as an a priori structure of perception and behaviour: affirmation is nothing but an instance of the faculty of judgement, and judging is a deliberate process guided by implicit (linguistic) principles. Language thus serves as an organizing principle of all spiritual and bodily manifestations of madness – as well as dreams, hallucinations, and everyday waking life, etc. This claim by Foucault is a huge one: it means that madness in a sense is essentially different from a healthy life. Both are superstructures founded on their own implicit discourse. In this sense, madness is ‘reason blinded’ – i.e. the point where untruth and dream touch each other. In another sense, madness is not-reason, non-being – it is a nothingness (e.g. it is always not-truth, not-reality, etc.) Yet, even though madness literally is nothing, it manifests itself as something, i.e. in bodily and mental states that can be observed by outsiders. So we end up, in the Enlightenment, with the strange notion that madness, as nothing, manifests itself as something, meaning it literally is unreason. According to Foucault, after he ditches all these abstract speculations up from a handful of selective historical sources, there has appeared a major distinction between the tragic man – the rational being doomed to always long for the impossible (i.e. knowing everything) – and the mad man – unreason in the flesh, not simply rejecting the impossible but negating it by its sheer existence. From this moment on, madness has been given a distinct status. Parallel to this, medical practice developed and started to view diseases – of which madness in all its forms was one part – as spatiotemporal objects, to be observed and studied by doctors. Positivistic medicine became the norm: applying the analytical method to the medical field and viewing the ‘medical gaze’ as the sole entry to scientific knowledge. It is easy to see what this implies for madmen: they have by now become objects of study, to be observed and spoken about, being literally subjected to the medical regime. Confinement has become institutionalized long ago and has, by now, transformed from a regime of sheer discipline and punishment into a medical clinic. Foucault ends Madness and Civilization with a conclusion, in which he makes some rather vague and ambiguous claims about the relationship between art and madness. From what I understand, modern man views in art madness, while madness can only exist after art has ceased to exist. That is, the artist continuously moves on the frontier between art and madness – art exists insofar madness doesn’t and vice versa. It is senseless to ask when Nietzsche started to turn mad and try to locate this moment in his works – all of Nietzsche’s works spring from his madness in the sense that it hadn’t manifested itself. Foucault seems to imply that madness only exists after the fact – which makes it an ungraspable and fascinating phenomenon. (Correct me if I’m wrong regarding this interpretation!) To be honest, I find Foucault’s claims rather unbelievable. I simply remain unconvinced after reading through this book. His selectivity when it comes to sources, his loose interpretations and the ambiguous language they are told with, but mostly his hidden agenda. With this last remark I mean his use of the phenomenological method to purely describe phenomena as they appear, yet using these descriptions themselves to implicitly argue for a particular interpretation of events. This is the insurmountable contradiction of postmodernism in a nutshell: if everything is simply an amalgam of interpretations, what criterion do we have to prefer your interpretation above others? Or value your interpretation at all? To be fair, Foucault was not really a postmodernist, he always rejected the label – although he is used as one of the founding father by many postmodernists. But he stumbles on the same contradiction, and this is due to the similar method of doing philosophy. For Foucault specifically, this comes across as if he is simply amassing a selection of historical facts, offering his own interpretations (although never unfounded!), and in the end supporting and validating his own preconceived theses. Combine this with the peculiar style in which he presents the material – half philosophy, half literature, sprinkled with some sociology – and you’ll end up with a book like Madness and Civilization. Interesting reading, insightful historical analyses and original interpretations, yet as a whole remaining unconvincing to me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    It is said that Foucault enjoyed being whipped.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I was a double major in psychology and English as an undergraduate, with a minor in philosophy. When I graduated in January of 1998, I hadn't yet heard about whether I'd been admitted to graduate school and couldn't find a job teaching English, my back-up plan. I decided to turn my philosophy minor into a major, as I already had more courses than required for a minor and was only 4 away. It so happened that I was missing were mostly already determined: (1) history of ancient philosophy, (2) clas I was a double major in psychology and English as an undergraduate, with a minor in philosophy. When I graduated in January of 1998, I hadn't yet heard about whether I'd been admitted to graduate school and couldn't find a job teaching English, my back-up plan. I decided to turn my philosophy minor into a major, as I already had more courses than required for a minor and was only 4 away. It so happened that I was missing were mostly already determined: (1) history of ancient philosophy, (2) classical modern philosophy, (3) senior seminar. I also had one elective (I took contemporary European philosophy with Tom Sheehan). For my senior seminar, I decided to take a graduate course on Foucault and Deleuze, as I had generally enjoyed continental philosophy and especially Deleuze (in a class I had read Marcuse, my prof suggested I read Deleuze and Guattari's "Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia" and chat with him about it over coffee). Unfortunately, most of the class was on Foucault and we only covered two Deleuze texts: (A) Foucault, and (B) Difference and Repetition. However, this means I'm more well-versed in Foucault than I'd care to be. Before the class started, I talked to my prof, Andrew Cutrofello, and asked if there was anything he suggested I read before class started. He suggested three: (1) James Miller's (by the way, my father's name) "The Passions of Michel Foucault," as a biography of him, (2) Madness and Civilization, and (3) Discipline and Punish. We wouldn't be reading (2) and (3) in class, as the focus was more on Foucault's epistemology (i.e., The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, etc.). So, I read them all -- (1) was full of stories of Foucault's sex life, anal fisting, and the like -- I had a hard time thinking of a person with my father's name writing about these. However, (2) and (3) were interesting to me. Madness and Civilization was especially interesting, as I was a psychology major, with interests in clinical psychology. Unfortunately, I took the work to be founded on historical facts, and it wouldn't be until my Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, where I wrote my history of psychology paper on changing bases of diagnoses of mental illness, that I found that Foucault's historical facts were often debated and sometimes made up. The Mahers, two Harvard historians, published a reply to Foucault's text in "The American Psychologist." According to them, in 1494, Sebastian Brant's wrote a book called "Narrenschiff," or "Ship of Fools." However, Brant intended "Narrenschiff" to be a historical allegory, and not actually a recounting of historical facts. In fact, the only evidence of such ships were wood cutting with pictures of boats and "ruffians" on then. Foucault mistakenly took this to mean that these ships were real entities. He went on to base a large portion of his text on the idea of such things. While there clearly is reason to believe in culturally and temporally specific aspects of diagnosis, the rather radical epistemological break that Foucault was propagating was largely false. Furthermore, the psychologists, who rarely go so far as to research things they like for themselves, started publishing Foucault's work as fact, thereby leading to falsities being largely believed in the field. According to the Mahers, psychology texts in the 1980s took the satire of the ship of fools to be fact because of Foucault. If you're interested in reading their research, see the following article: Maher, W.B. & Maher, B. (1982). "Stultifera Navis or Ignis Fatuus?" American Psychologist, 37(7), 756-761 I hear that "Madness and Civilization" was a shorted version of Foucault's text, "The History of Madness." I have not yet read the latter, and am certainly hoping that his sloppy scholarship was explained in it. Maybe that should be on my "to read" shelf, of maybe I'm too disappointed in the let-down of a seemingly good text being flawed that makes me not wanting to read it more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    It took me almost two months to finish this behemoth, but it was worth it. Two months ago, I was reading an article in the New York Times on modern Catholicism that mentioned Foucault, and from there I read a brief overview on Wikipedia. There I found a reference to the History of Madness, Foucault's doctoral thesis, and since I'm interested in insanity, asylums and so forth, I checked this one out of the library. I'm not going to lie, this is a dense tome. I read it in 5-20 page increments, most It took me almost two months to finish this behemoth, but it was worth it. Two months ago, I was reading an article in the New York Times on modern Catholicism that mentioned Foucault, and from there I read a brief overview on Wikipedia. There I found a reference to the History of Madness, Foucault's doctoral thesis, and since I'm interested in insanity, asylums and so forth, I checked this one out of the library. I'm not going to lie, this is a dense tome. I read it in 5-20 page increments, mostly because I had to keep stopping to look up a word or reference. (For example, I learned that pyrexia is another word for fever.) I particularly enjoyed the beginning segment speaking of how the mad were clumped together with other "outsider" groups: homosexuals, criminals, and "libertines" for example. There was also a great exploration of how leprosy in the Middle Ages had already created a structure for isolation of unwanted members of society (this really appealed to me as I had a chapter on medieval treatments of leprosy in my undergraduate thesis). It's also interesting how much of the thought applied to the understanding of madness applies today--although to other groups. For example, all those subject to the Great Confinement were those who operated outside the norms of society: the indigent, the poor, the mad, the criminal, and religious fanatics. By confining them, society's goal was to keep them out of society and therefore from interfering in the day to day life of others, and preventing them from corrupting others. I see this idea continually reflected in America, in the divisive tone of politics, where the poor and indigent are treated as children in need of comforting by the Left and as non-functioning members of society by the Right. I was only mildly disappointed that the book did not extend to the 19th century treatment of madness, however, as Foucault explains, there is far more in this era to talk about than can be covered in this book. At that point, madness stopped being a topic of philosophy and became instead a disease, and a subject for physicians.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    By sophomore year in college I was beginning to think of becoming a psychotherapist and actually held two jobs at a psychiatric hospital during the year following, one setting up a treatment assessment program, the other administrating and evaluating diagnostic tests such as the MMPI. Then, later, back at Grinnell, I was trained in drug counseling a worked in the school's crisis center as well as in its draft counseling office. My real interest was in continental depth psychology, but the jobs a By sophomore year in college I was beginning to think of becoming a psychotherapist and actually held two jobs at a psychiatric hospital during the year following, one setting up a treatment assessment program, the other administrating and evaluating diagnostic tests such as the MMPI. Then, later, back at Grinnell, I was trained in drug counseling a worked in the school's crisis center as well as in its draft counseling office. My real interest was in continental depth psychology, but the jobs and the regular psych courses kept involving me in what passed for psychotherapeutics for most people exposed to it in the United States. My major in Religion was partially a front for extended, mostly independent, study of depth psychology, the department being liberal about allowing such things. Upon graduation I went on immediately to Union Theological Seminary, majoring in their Psychiatry and Religion program and interning at a teaching hospital of Columbia University while attending seminars there, one for its psychiatric residents, another for psychiatric social workers and a third for chaplains like myself. Here, in New York, the emphasis was far more psychoanalytic than in Iowa or Illinois. Finishing seminary I intended to go on for an STM. with further study at the Institute for Religion and Health, coming under care of the UUA with every expectation of being a psychotherapist salaried by the church, our clients paying in accord with their ability to do so. My interests by then had become focused on questions of value and faith. Sadly, the UUA discontinued its pastoral counseling program (one that Alfred Adler had worked for upon coming to NYC as a refugee from Nazism) and, more happily, I had fallen in love for a hometown girl. The consequence is that I returned to Chicago. In Chicago I sat for the city and state civil service examinations pertinent to psychotherapeutic practice. Job offers came in, but all of them were for coercive programs, either in the prison system or in drug rehabilitation. Although I'd trained in drug counseling, I had no interest in serving in such a capacity if it had any coercive element and the positions Illinois was offering were all connected to the criminal "justice" system. I ended up working in three institutions for adolescents, all of whom had been designated psychotic, virtually none of whom were. A few years of this and I returned to school. Illinois at that time had tougher requirements than New York. A Ph.D. would be necessary for the kind of practice I was interested in and for being able to pursue further Institute training. Loyola University, just a mile from home, had the largest philosophy program in the States, my roommate was in it, and the department was continental in orientation. Since my primary interest was in value questions, the fit seemed good, certainly better than their psychology programs. Here, too, there was disappointment. The Advanced Standing Committee of the graduate school took a year to evaluate my previous four years of graduate study, leaving me adrift, not knowing what my requirements would be. I took courses relevant to what I thought would be my dissertation topic, then, that year later, found I had a bunch of stuff to do that wasn't relevant. Meanwhile I discovered that the department had but one person, Richard Chessick, who knew anything about my subject area. Then, having finished the course work for the M.A. and being one course from finishing the Ph.D., he had his contract terminated. Who to be on the committee? I thought seriously of switching to political economy. Meanwhile, I got a job lead from the fellow, Bill Ellos, I'd been a research assistant to for three years, a lead that led to a job offer, albeit only part-time to start, in the dean's office of the part-time division. The people seemed nice, the job useful, besides, it would give my new wife (the hometown girl) free tuition, so I took it, obtaining another one at Evanston Hospital to help pay off the school loans. Eventually it became full-time, promotions followed, I was made assistant dean and a career-path quite different than the one I'd set out on seemed clear. Although I continued to take classes at Loyola while working there, now I wanted to teach in one of their interdisciplinary graduate programs which would combine religion, psychology and philosophy. That seemed to fulfill the need to be useful much along the lines that being a psychotherapist had once seemed to promise. Besides, unlike most psychology practiced in the U.S.A., it wouldn't be coercive. It was during this period of settling into the dean's office that I read Foucault's Madness and Civilization, a book which just served to reinforce what I'd read about previously in the study of the anti-psychiatry movement, the humanistic psychologists and the works of Thomas Szasz and what I'd learned working in institutions supposedly designed to help the mentally ill.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Don Rea

    So far I'm about fifty or sixty pages in, and I've completely lost track of what this gibbering madman is raving about. Perhaps this is a poor translation, but after the first ten pages even individual sentences are meaningless and syntactically ambiguous. I re-read paragraphs, sometimes ten or twelve times, but I simply can't make any of this make any sense. I'll slog through for a couple more chapters to see if it gets any better, but I don't have much hope for this basket of word salad. So far I'm about fifty or sixty pages in, and I've completely lost track of what this gibbering madman is raving about. Perhaps this is a poor translation, but after the first ten pages even individual sentences are meaningless and syntactically ambiguous. I re-read paragraphs, sometimes ten or twelve times, but I simply can't make any of this make any sense. I'll slog through for a couple more chapters to see if it gets any better, but I don't have much hope for this basket of word salad.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex Obrigewitsch

    Foucault...what to say.. So many people, and my friends as well, adore this man's work. While I see its merit, and understand it's place in the history of thought, I am on shaky grounds with Foucault. His attempt at the archeological uncovering of the silenced side of madness in history is admirable, but he stumbles and falls in attempting to integrate madness into a structure. By attempting to classify and understand madness as unreason, setting it in opposition to reason, Foucault stumbles into hi Foucault...what to say.. So many people, and my friends as well, adore this man's work. While I see its merit, and understand it's place in the history of thought, I am on shaky grounds with Foucault. His attempt at the archeological uncovering of the silenced side of madness in history is admirable, but he stumbles and falls in attempting to integrate madness into a structure. By attempting to classify and understand madness as unreason, setting it in opposition to reason, Foucault stumbles into his fault. Madness is beyond and beneath any opposition, as an (a)primordial chaos which is ungrounded in its ungrounding. It denies and destroys all attempts at integration. It is an expression of the wellspring of chaos, and while Foucault seems to realize this, and flirt with it, he backs away from the abyss, falling back into the furrow of reason, in a delirious stupor; back into a systematic and structural construction.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Allyson

    The English translation is problematic. Where the French is very clear, the English is cloudy with academic jargon. It was disappointing to compare the French to the English.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathrina

    Foucault's first published book, when he might have identified as a structuralist. I admit I glossed over the center chapters including the classifications of various archaic mental illnesses, but I read deeply the first two chapters discussing banishment and confinement as technologies of discipline/regularization. Pairs well with Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America. Foucault's first published book, when he might have identified as a structuralist. I admit I glossed over the center chapters including the classifications of various archaic mental illnesses, but I read deeply the first two chapters discussing banishment and confinement as technologies of discipline/regularization. Pairs well with Conscience and Convenience: The Asylum and Its Alternatives in Progressive America.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    Foucault* provides context for our dozens of American cities now arresting the homeless, from Houston to Reno. We follow the lead of London in 2014, around Marble Arch, and of New Delhi, late last year preparing for Ivanka Trump’s visit, not to trouble her with have-nots. His subtitle is Insanity in the Age of Reason. He also illustrates how the asylums built to ward off great medical threats to society, leprosy and bubonic plague, found new use in ostracizing those who violated the Work Ethic: Foucault* provides context for our dozens of American cities now arresting the homeless, from Houston to Reno. We follow the lead of London in 2014, around Marble Arch, and of New Delhi, late last year preparing for Ivanka Trump’s visit, not to trouble her with have-nots. His subtitle is Insanity in the Age of Reason. He also illustrates how the asylums built to ward off great medical threats to society, leprosy and bubonic plague, found new use in ostracizing those who violated the Work Ethic: the slothful, those out of work. In the mid-17C France, men and boys might be sent to row military ships, the galleys, but women and children banished. By 1657, Monday the 14th of May, after the sacred mass prior, the Paris militia was sent “to hunt down beggars and herd them into the Hôpital”(49). The militia would become named, in the psychology of popular terror, “the archers of the Hôpital.” MF titles his first chapter on medieval madmen “Ship of Fools,” in period Latin, Stultifera Navis. In fact, those deemed mad were ushered out of towns, as were the needy later in Shakespearean England, remanded to their place of birth, where the parish was responsible for their care. Madmen were allowed to roam the countryside, but they were also frequently “handed over to boatmen; in Frankfurt in 1399, seamen were instructed to rid the city of a madman who walked about the streets naked”(8). Readers of Shakespeare will recall how Hamlet is diagnosed as crazy for attacking and killing Polonius behind the curtain. What is Hamlet’s treatment for madness? Why, he is handed over to boatmen to take him to England (where, perhaps, the Danes thought he would find mad companions). Rosencratz and Guildenstern, old former friends, accompany him. But he never arrives in the country where he became famous as a stage character. *Translated by the superior Richard Howard.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Randal Samstag

    This is the book that started Foucault onto his starry path. IMHO his best. My reading of this back in the sixties is heavily underlined. In those days of the Vietnam war it did seem that the "ruse and triumph" of madness had arrived, when the world must justify itself before it. The madness of Nietzsche, Van Gogh,and Artaud had much charm for us then. Today I am only able to shed a tear for Vincent. This is the book that started Foucault onto his starry path. IMHO his best. My reading of this back in the sixties is heavily underlined. In those days of the Vietnam war it did seem that the "ruse and triumph" of madness had arrived, when the world must justify itself before it. The madness of Nietzsche, Van Gogh,and Artaud had much charm for us then. Today I am only able to shed a tear for Vincent.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    As the title suggests, this book is about madness and civilization. However, it does not argue that civilization is mad (for that, see Sigmund Freud ’s Civilization and Its Discontents and Norman Oliver Brown’s Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History); rather, it argues that part of the way that civilization defines itself (rational, progressive, organized) is by distinguishing itself from that which it is not, for instance madness (irrational, regressive, disordered). In thi As the title suggests, this book is about madness and civilization. However, it does not argue that civilization is mad (for that, see Sigmund Freud ’s Civilization and Its Discontents and Norman Oliver Brown’s Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History); rather, it argues that part of the way that civilization defines itself (rational, progressive, organized) is by distinguishing itself from that which it is not, for instance madness (irrational, regressive, disordered). In this context, the category of “madness” comes into question: would a class of persons designated “mad” exist if civilization, in order to define itself, did not need to produce it? Foucault’s argument can be applied not only to those labeled mad, but also to other marginalized classes that civilization produces and then employs as terms against which to define itself—the poor, for instance.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Malini Sridharan

    If foucault were alive today, I would comfort him in his old age whether he liked it or not.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Otto Lehto

    How can we categorize it? Should we even try? At its core it is a maddeningly sane work of institutional critique that pushes the boundaries of philosophy. In it, Foucault asks provocative questions about the relationship between knowledge, truth, and power in the evolving political organization and institutional management of the modern category of madness. "Madness and Civilization" is an early work for Foucault so it is (thank God) mostly free of the heavy theoretical baggage and jargon that How can we categorize it? Should we even try? At its core it is a maddeningly sane work of institutional critique that pushes the boundaries of philosophy. In it, Foucault asks provocative questions about the relationship between knowledge, truth, and power in the evolving political organization and institutional management of the modern category of madness. "Madness and Civilization" is an early work for Foucault so it is (thank God) mostly free of the heavy theoretical baggage and jargon that weighs down some of his later works. For the same reason, it could be accused of lacking a coherent theoretical framework. But its function is not to posit a positive framework to replace the existing ones. Rather, its function is to criticize existing structures (this is the only way in which Foucault is "structuralist" and "postmodern"). I, for one, am happy that the book lacks a coherent singular theoretical framework. It is more interesting for it. It is always a bit of a shame that Foucault has become associated with "postmodernism". This is a rather meaningless label and it tells us very little about Foucault as a thinker. In any other context his oeuvre would stand on its own. It should be better described as idiosyncratic, philosophically infused cultural critique that mixes positive and normative analyses of the history of madness in a dizzying, perplexing, and brilliant way. It should be judged as a critical philosophical essay in the Nietzschean tradition. To the extent that it has a singular theme, it is to provide a critical phenomenological and epistemological interrogation of the changing working assumptions of the sociopolitical treatment of madness and to ask questions about its moral legitimacy. So, what has Foucault produced here? Is it sociology, history, or philosophy? Or anti-psychiatry? Well, I don't think any one of those fully describes the nature and contents of the book. It is certainly not an "objective" history of madness in the positivist sense. Nor is it merely a normative condemnation of the brutality of psychiatrists, doctors, and politicians. It is an attempt to explain the changing patterns of social power, and the production of knowledge accompanying it, in the administration and treatment of the "insane" and the "ill" as a contested category. Its brilliance lies not in its precise chronological delineation of changing modes of thought (here we can question some of the historical interpretations made by Foucault) but in its groundbreaking explanation of why these mutating patterns of power and knowledge are philosophically interesting. The book can be accused of romanticizing madness in the vein of Artaud and Nietzsche, of using big words and convoluted sentences, and of lacking in rigorous scientific methodology. And I will admit that the book occasionally veers towards the romantic notion of madness as the liberation of the individual subjectivity from the constraints of social bondage and moral inhibition. But it does so only marginally and without tainting the whole project with a normative brush. Furthermore, by pointing out the prevalence of madness in spirituality, art, and even philosophy itself, Foucault forces us to rethink the fundamental role that "reason" and "sanity" plays in our thought. On the charge of obscurantism, I don't think the language is needlessly complicated or obscurantist for the most part. It is only brutally demanding of prior knowledge of French literature and continental philosophy. It is not for everybody but it rewards a patient engagement. And to be sure, any historian could point to a dozen misrepresentations or factual omissions in Foucault's reading of history. There are better HISTORIES of madness out there - but I don't think there are better comprehensive SOCIAL CRITIQUES of madness out there. At least not many. "Madness and Civilization" is a more lucid and sane book than people give it credit for. Yes, it is motivated by a Nietzschean-Dionysian flame but it is equally driven by an (dare I say it) Aristotelean-Apollonian analytical mind that acts as a continuous check on its wild fancies. Between these two forces, the book teeters on the edge of madness without falling over. The end result is fantastically broad and deep exploration of madness as the limit of our thought. It does not open the door of delirium but it leaves the window open for the spirits to find their way in.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dorum

    The subject of the book is awesome. Foucault's book is not. It is incredible how pretentious and useless he sounds. As a lesson in style, I would simply forbid him the use of rhetorical questions, which abound in his book. I would also consider limiting his use of conditionals ("If we consider the X is true then completely unrelated Y"). I believe this flowery style is somehow common to the French philosophers of the latter part of the 20th century. Foucault goes on musing about various ideas th The subject of the book is awesome. Foucault's book is not. It is incredible how pretentious and useless he sounds. As a lesson in style, I would simply forbid him the use of rhetorical questions, which abound in his book. I would also consider limiting his use of conditionals ("If we consider the X is true then completely unrelated Y"). I believe this flowery style is somehow common to the French philosophers of the latter part of the 20th century. Foucault goes on musing about various ideas that he has without really providing a context. He lacks rigour, style and respect for the reader. Are there better histories of psychology out there? To be honest, I don't know, but I really hope there are. One might even make a good one taking all of Foucault's references available here and using some ghost writer or something. What about his central thesis? It seems that Foucault is trying to show that reason is nothing else than a power play. After all "reason"-able people impose their will upon "unreason"-able people. Is this actually the case? To be honest I am not convinced. It is probably a fact, but at certain times he makes it seem as a conspiracy, as if something was lost when mad people were separated from the rest. I, for one, am not really convinced. The failings of the discourse of early modern medicine do not imply a truth in the unreason of madness. (See, Mr. Foucault? I can talk in your language!) I would simply love someone with real writing talent to take up the challenge of writing a history of madness. Someone like, let's say...Bill Bryson? Yuval Noah Harari? someone like that. I even have a formula for them: Take all the dates and facts mentioned in Foucault's book, then use your superior writing skills to explain to everyone how much medicine sucked before the late 19th century. Job done.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Unnecessarily repetitive and a bit wordy at times, this brick of a book did keep my attention for most of the long journey it took for me to read it, as the subject and the dive he takes to explore so called madness, goes very deep. Overall quite fascinating.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Bateman

    This brilliant book, which traces the shifting European "discourse systems" about madness from the late Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, describes the process by which measures dealing with the insane shifted from exposure (as on the "ship of fools," if such things actually existed, or by wandering the countryside) to confinement (alongside the idle poor in "hospitals" and "charity wards") to paternalistic "medical" care (by doctors who, upon realizing that there were no curative tech This brilliant book, which traces the shifting European "discourse systems" about madness from the late Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, describes the process by which measures dealing with the insane shifted from exposure (as on the "ship of fools," if such things actually existed, or by wandering the countryside) to confinement (alongside the idle poor in "hospitals" and "charity wards") to paternalistic "medical" care (by doctors who, upon realizing that there were no curative techniques for these disorders, simply used their authority to silence and shame the "voices of unreason"; and then by psychoanalysts in the Freudian tradition, who focused all the powers of the "medical" tradition on creating an "absence that is also a total presence," using an "absolute Observation, a pure Silence...[to] punish and reward in a judgment that does not even condescend to language"). In addition to tracing these shifts, Foucault discusses--particularly in the first and last chapters of the book--the impact that this changed treatment of insanity has had on the production of "Art" in the Western world, concluding that, with the separation of madness from unreason, "it is [now] through the mediation of madness...[that] the world becomes culpable in relation to the work of art; it is now arraigned by the work of art, obliged to order itself by its language, compelled by it to a task of recognition, of reparation, to the task of restoring reason FROM that unreason TO that unreason." Also: If you're reading this book and haven't seen Jan Svankmajer's tremendous film Lunacy (http://www.metacritic.com/movie/lunacy), I would urge you to watch the latter while taking a break from the former.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    A last question remains: In the name of what can this fundamental language be regarded as a delirium? Granting that it is the truth of madness, what makes it true madness and the originating form of insanity? Why should it be in this discourse, whose forms we have seen to be so faithful to the rules of reason, that we find all those signs which will most manifestly declare the very absence of reason? A central question, but one to which the classical age has not formulated a direct answer. We mus A last question remains: In the name of what can this fundamental language be regarded as a delirium? Granting that it is the truth of madness, what makes it true madness and the originating form of insanity? Why should it be in this discourse, whose forms we have seen to be so faithful to the rules of reason, that we find all those signs which will most manifestly declare the very absence of reason? A central question, but one to which the classical age has not formulated a direct answer. We must approach it obliquely.... Er -- must we, though? Really, Mickey? Must we really approach it that way? Dude, this guy's got some interesting stuff to say, for sure, but I'm not a girl renowned for my patience or fortitude, nor for my grasp of oblique philosophy. And let's face it, Mike, la vie est trop courte! Je suis très désolée, mais.... je ne peux pas. I mean, I could, but come on.... wouldn't that be just a little bit, um, well.... crazy? What I mean by all this is: Oh, Foucault, what the hell are you ever talking about.... Beats me!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Feijiao Huo

    Thinking about there's just a fine line between a madman and genius... Maybe the only difference is the number of their fans. Genius significantly has more fans than madmen. Their fans follow them all way, while most mad men die lonely with a single story failed to leave. That's why Focau study madmen and then conclude something about politic and power. We all know many historical figures are like madmen. Then the question goes to how the madman write their own history. If we focus too much on hu Thinking about there's just a fine line between a madman and genius... Maybe the only difference is the number of their fans. Genius significantly has more fans than madmen. Their fans follow them all way, while most mad men die lonely with a single story failed to leave. That's why Focau study madmen and then conclude something about politic and power. We all know many historical figures are like madmen. Then the question goes to how the madman write their own history. If we focus too much on human physiology, behavioral or psychological research of Madness and Civilization, perhaps we misunderstand Foucau's purpose for this book. Although he is talking about madness, his idea is not about showing our science and culture conquest of madness. He is proving a simple truth that madness contradicts and units with the world. It is about contradictory unity of religion and madness, unity of philosophy and madness, unity of literature and madness, contradiction of civilization of madness, or the process of civilization to its madness. Feijiao

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    This book is full of interesting ideas buried in some of the densest, most obtuse prose I have ever encountered. Foucault writes about the history of the treatment of the insane, particularly in Europe, and how mental illness has been viewed in culture. Drawing heavily on French history, he makes the case that mental illness was viewed as shameful and a sign of moral degradation, so mentally ill people were no longer considered human, but were punished for being "mad". He goes into a fairly deta This book is full of interesting ideas buried in some of the densest, most obtuse prose I have ever encountered. Foucault writes about the history of the treatment of the insane, particularly in Europe, and how mental illness has been viewed in culture. Drawing heavily on French history, he makes the case that mental illness was viewed as shameful and a sign of moral degradation, so mentally ill people were no longer considered human, but were punished for being "mad". He goes into a fairly detailed history of French psychiatry and how reforms in hospital care for the mentally ill were enacted. The book is exhausting to read because of long, multiple-clause sentences, obscure vocabulary and references to philosophy and other authors that will mystify the uninitiated. Nonetheless, I think the translator is somewhat to blame for convoluted syntax and phraseology. Foucault himself was writing to impress a hyper-academic audience. Too bad, because there is a lot of useful thinking here.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Florence

    Madness in the 17th century was not easily defined. There was no distinction between insanity and other conditions for the imposition of confinement. Prisoners of the Hopital General were institutionalized because of poverty, inability to work, infidelity, religion, and ethical values. The definition & the many horrible treatments for hypochondria & hysteria vary throughout the centuries: Blood transfusions, bleedings, purges, cold water treatments, powdered lobster claw, baths, showers, bitters Madness in the 17th century was not easily defined. There was no distinction between insanity and other conditions for the imposition of confinement. Prisoners of the Hopital General were institutionalized because of poverty, inability to work, infidelity, religion, and ethical values. The definition & the many horrible treatments for hypochondria & hysteria vary throughout the centuries: Blood transfusions, bleedings, purges, cold water treatments, powdered lobster claw, baths, showers, bitters like chimney soot, honey, coffee, tincture of quinine, soaps, soluable tartar, and vinegar. Walking, running, horse back riding and sea voyages were some of the more advantageous exercises; travel surpassed expectations as sufferers were less disturbed. But the problem of what was the actual nature of these two diseases was still unknown. "In the first half of the 19th century psychology as a means of curing,is.......organized around punishment."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Foucault outlines the evolution of society's definition, views, and treatments of madness from the middle ages to the 18th century. This sounds super interesting, but I found it took me a long time to get through all the specific names and cases Foucault uses and often had to puzzle out the "bigger picture" for myself to keep myself engaged with the text. As Deleuze points out, the major fault of Foucault's work is that it doesn't bridge to the 20th and 21st century very easily. I was hoping to Foucault outlines the evolution of society's definition, views, and treatments of madness from the middle ages to the 18th century. This sounds super interesting, but I found it took me a long time to get through all the specific names and cases Foucault uses and often had to puzzle out the "bigger picture" for myself to keep myself engaged with the text. As Deleuze points out, the major fault of Foucault's work is that it doesn't bridge to the 20th and 21st century very easily. I was hoping to find the journey of madness through the history of human kind to the present day, but nope. I guess that will be some other philosopher or psychologist's job. Still, I found it worthwhile to learn how the idea of madness has shifted throughout time, even if I didn't get to read about madnesses's manifestation in the 20th century. The emergence of psychology in relation to madness was also an interesting historical development that Foucault includes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    This book explores the history of madness and the care, or lack thereof of people who are mad. Throughout the book Foucault discusses the complicated factors that underline madness, and the social construction that occurred, which places madness as a category itself. Overall, I loved it. Some of it was a bit challenging to understand, and I would love to discuss this book with anyone who feels a stronger expertise in philosophy or in Foucault's works. My favorite chapter was the one focused on t This book explores the history of madness and the care, or lack thereof of people who are mad. Throughout the book Foucault discusses the complicated factors that underline madness, and the social construction that occurred, which places madness as a category itself. Overall, I loved it. Some of it was a bit challenging to understand, and I would love to discuss this book with anyone who feels a stronger expertise in philosophy or in Foucault's works. My favorite chapter was the one focused on the asylum. Pure genius. It nicely examines the role of power and how Pinel and Tuke, the founders of the medical model, both wanted to help those mad, and installed a system that oppressed the mad in a different way. A thought provoking book I believe all psychologists or mental health providers should read.

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