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Foucault is one of those rare philosophers who has become a cult figure. Born in 1926 in France, over the course of his life he dabbled in drugs, politics, and the Paris SM scene, all whilst striving to understand the deep concepts of identity, knowledge, and power. From aesthetics to the penal system; from madness and civilisation to avant-garde literature, Foucault was ha Foucault is one of those rare philosophers who has become a cult figure. Born in 1926 in France, over the course of his life he dabbled in drugs, politics, and the Paris SM scene, all whilst striving to understand the deep concepts of identity, knowledge, and power. From aesthetics to the penal system; from madness and civilisation to avant-garde literature, Foucault was happy to reject old models of thinking and replace them with versions that are still widely debated today. A major influence on Queer Theory and gender studies (he was openly gay and died of an AIDS-related illness in 1984), he also wrote on architecture, history, law, medicine, literature, politics and of course philosophy, and even managed a best-seller in France on a book dedicated to the history of systems of thought. Because of the complexity of his arguments, people trying to come to terms with his work have desperately sought introductory material that makes his theories clear and accessible for the beginner. Ideally suited for the Very Short Introductions series, Gary Gutting presents a comprehensive but non-systematic treatment of some highlights of Foucault's life and thought. Beginning with a brief biography to set the social and political stage, he then tackles Foucault's thoughts on literature, in particular the avant-garde scene; his philosophical and historical work; his treatment of knowledge and power in modern society; and his thoughts on sexuality.


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Foucault is one of those rare philosophers who has become a cult figure. Born in 1926 in France, over the course of his life he dabbled in drugs, politics, and the Paris SM scene, all whilst striving to understand the deep concepts of identity, knowledge, and power. From aesthetics to the penal system; from madness and civilisation to avant-garde literature, Foucault was ha Foucault is one of those rare philosophers who has become a cult figure. Born in 1926 in France, over the course of his life he dabbled in drugs, politics, and the Paris SM scene, all whilst striving to understand the deep concepts of identity, knowledge, and power. From aesthetics to the penal system; from madness and civilisation to avant-garde literature, Foucault was happy to reject old models of thinking and replace them with versions that are still widely debated today. A major influence on Queer Theory and gender studies (he was openly gay and died of an AIDS-related illness in 1984), he also wrote on architecture, history, law, medicine, literature, politics and of course philosophy, and even managed a best-seller in France on a book dedicated to the history of systems of thought. Because of the complexity of his arguments, people trying to come to terms with his work have desperately sought introductory material that makes his theories clear and accessible for the beginner. Ideally suited for the Very Short Introductions series, Gary Gutting presents a comprehensive but non-systematic treatment of some highlights of Foucault's life and thought. Beginning with a brief biography to set the social and political stage, he then tackles Foucault's thoughts on literature, in particular the avant-garde scene; his philosophical and historical work; his treatment of knowledge and power in modern society; and his thoughts on sexuality.

30 review for Foucault: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The Epistemology of Suspicion Always resisting categories, obfuscating himself - decoding the writings of Foucault is obviously a tough challenge. This VSI makes an admirable attempt and in the end at least provides us with a glimpse at the intricacy and elegance of the many arguments and the fine ways in which they tie in with each other. Such wide subjects as modern medicine, the prison system, schooling, madness and asylums, attitudes towards sex, and many others, all coming together into The Epistemology of Suspicion Always resisting categories, obfuscating himself - decoding the writings of Foucault is obviously a tough challenge. This VSI makes an admirable attempt and in the end at least provides us with a glimpse at the intricacy and elegance of the many arguments and the fine ways in which they tie in with each other. Such wide subjects as modern medicine, the prison system, schooling, madness and asylums, attitudes towards sex, and many others, all coming together into a single system of thought should be sufficient to get anyone excited enough to embark on such a difficult undertaking. In addition, Gutting also very nicely situates Foucault’s thoughts and makes them accessible and generates enough curiosity in the reader. It showcases the immense breadth and range of Foucault, the power of his ideas and also, for fun, where he could be challenged - which adds excitement to the anticipation of reading! I generally don’t try to talk about the actual ideas in reviews of VSIs since I am not qualified to detect any biases in the author's interpretation and hence do not want to be a purveyor of ignorance. But I cannot resist commenting on the two most interesting aspects of Foucault’s philosophy: 1. His meditation on Power & Knowledge: On its origins and structures, and orgies. 2. His exercises in Language: His writings (when exploring the thoughts of other authors) are exercises in wringing the very language, the authors and the readers - designed to unleash from language new transgressive truths that will take him and his readers beyond the realm of their knowledge and capacity of expression. Making space for language itself to speak, freed from the original author’s intentions. Of these, I focus here only on the dynamics of Power in society: Foucault dissects the very basis of power in society - by making explicit the political significance of the societal norms defining the modern individual’s identity. I get the impression, in fact, that all of Foucault’s philosophy is based on this platform of thought, is centered on Power - which is derived from and influences directly Knowledge. Foucault is about the interplay of these two entities - Power & Knowledge - and how they test each other. And at the localized, microscopic level of individuals, not just at the large and abstract lever of nations and sociology. Foucault occasionally noted how the objects of such power structures could themselves internalize the norms whereby they were controlled and so become monitors of their own behavior. This phenomenon becomes central in some contexts, when individuals are supposed to discern their own fundamental identity from crucial social norms, and on the basis of this self-knowledge, transform their lives. As a result, we are controlled not only as objects of Power, by experts that have expert Knowledge of us - we are also controlled as self-scrutinizing and self-forming subjects of our own Knowledge. And even when we try to break free of these structures, the social pressures, basic education, intruded education (advertisements, etc.), social gossip, the magazines, self-help books, and manuals that guide us to an ‘empowered’ life seem to induce in us as much insecurity and fear about our social relevance and ability to contribute as sermons and tracts did in our grandparents. So all of Foucault’s wide-ranging studies are really part of an effort to understand the process whereby individuals become subjects, emerging from his analysis of modern power relations, which he saw penetrating even the interiority of our personal identity; and the need for developing a deep Suspicion towards all structures - both of Power and of Knowledge. I realize that I am getting muddled up a bit here. The best summation of Foucault is probably his own final overall characterization of his work, in the Preface to ‘The Use of Pleasure’: Foucault maintains that, from the beginning, he has, on the broadest level, been developing a ‘history of truth’. He conceives this history as having three main aspects: an analysis of ‘games of truth’ (that is, various systems of discourse developed to produce truth), both in their own right and in relation to one another; an analysis of the relation of these games of truth to power relations; and an analysis of the relation of games of truth to the self. In sum, as I hope I have shown, it certainly works as a good sounding stone to test if you are ready for these ideas or not. If you can make sense of them, then it might well be time to jump right in. One thing I was not able to establish from this excellent VSI was the order in which I should approach Foucault - is there a good starting point that gives a better understanding of the rest? I am inclined to start either with The History of Madness or with The Archeology of Knowledge. I would be grateful if experienced Foucault readers could help me out on this.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Foucault: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #122), Gary Gutting Paul-Michel Foucault (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984), generally known as Michel Foucault, was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic. Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. Though often cited as a post-structuralist and postmodernist, Foucault rejected Foucault: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #122), Gary Gutting Paul-Michel Foucault (15 October 1926 – 25 June 1984), generally known as Michel Foucault, was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic. Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. Though often cited as a post-structuralist and postmodernist, Foucault rejected these labels, preferring to present his thought as a critical history of modernity. His thought has influenced academics, especially those working in sociology, cultural studies, literary theory and critical theory. Activist groups have also found his theories compelling. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: دهم ماه مارس سال 2012 میلادی عنوان: فوکو : درآمدی بسیار کوتاه؛ نویسنده: گری گاتینگ؛ مترجم: مهدی یوسفی؛ تهران، افق، 1389، در 160 ص، مصور، شابک: 9789643697037؛ چاپ دیگر: 1392، در 144 ص؛ شابک: 9789643697686؛ موضوع: میشل فوکو 1926 تا 1984 قرن 21 م میشل فوکو برای دیدگاه و انقلابی درباره ی جامعه، سیاست، و تاریخ؛ از سرشناسترین متفکران قرن بیستم محسوب می‌شود. فوکو جزو رهبران نظری پساساختارگرایی (توسعه و پاسخ به ساختارگرایی) محسوب می‌شود، هر چند از آنها فاصله گرفت و در مصاحبه‌ ای که بعدها از آن نیز برائت جست، به صراحت خود را نیچه‌ گرا نامیده است. ا. شربیانی

  3. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Clausen

    As a young thinker, I found Foucault's writing both highly engaging (in an aesthetic way) and thought-provoking (in a critical philosophical way). I found myself reading his work just as a young comic mind study the works of Monty Python. Foucault was both mainstream and yet just a bit too cool for the mainstream. As a reader who hated the philosophical system-builders but who liked creative critical tools for disassembling our received truths, I found myself coming back to him periodically. But As a young thinker, I found Foucault's writing both highly engaging (in an aesthetic way) and thought-provoking (in a critical philosophical way). I found myself reading his work just as a young comic mind study the works of Monty Python. Foucault was both mainstream and yet just a bit too cool for the mainstream. As a reader who hated the philosophical system-builders but who liked creative critical tools for disassembling our received truths, I found myself coming back to him periodically. But for whatever reason, the ideas of Foucault never stuck very long in my brain. After leaving aside a book of Foucault's for a while, the ideas would sort of dissolve into the air. If someone were to casually ask about Foucault's ideas, I might force out some mediocre explanation about Panopticism, biopower, power/knowledge, and leave my listener (and myself) in a state of deeper bafflement. This volume doesn't necessarily solve these problems. Foucault is still Foucault. The volume does, however, explain why the author (and perhaps philosopher) is both so engaging and at the same time perplexing. There is a great term Gutting uses to describe Foucault's work: baroque complexification. That is a great description of what Foucault's writing is. Another critic cited in the volume describes Foucault's work as prose poetry. That is both a valid criticism and at the same time a statement of Foucault's virtue as a thinker. This book is two things: a great introduction for someone looking to enter the weird intellectual journeys of Foucault or a great refresher for someone who has been outside of his weird worlds for too long.

  4. 4 out of 5

    AC

    I don't know much about Foucault. I 'read' (in a fashion), The Order of Things -- or at least some of it -- when I was a dumb kid, but didn't understand any of it. As in 'zilch'. But reading this 'dummies' book reminds me of a different experience I once had. When I first read Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, I was overwhelmed by it. It changed my life. The sheer intricacy of his mind, and the effort it took to read this book - remarkable in its intelligence and clarity -- simply bowled me over. It I don't know much about Foucault. I 'read' (in a fashion), The Order of Things -- or at least some of it -- when I was a dumb kid, but didn't understand any of it. As in 'zilch'. But reading this 'dummies' book reminds me of a different experience I once had. When I first read Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, I was overwhelmed by it. It changed my life. The sheer intricacy of his mind, and the effort it took to read this book - remarkable in its intelligence and clarity -- simply bowled me over. It took quite a while, in fact -- a lot more Lévi-Strauss and some critical readings that infuriated me -- before I finally realized that the complexity masked a simplicity of thought (an ontology of binary oppositions) that was simply false. And that cured me, for all time, of modern French philosophy. A bit, when all is said and done, like Gertrude Stein's famous L.A. quote. I very much doubt if now, in my doddering old age -- after spending literally decades reading Plato (with a fine tooth'd comb) -- that I'm likely to be more attracted to deconstruction, post-structuralism, post-modernism, post-etceteras -- whose fundamental epistemological claims are thoroughly refuted (there's nothing new under the sun -- in philosophy, at least -- as Whitehead said) by a careful examination of the Theaetetus and the Sophist. At any rate, this book is very good, brief, but balanced -- and an excellent and clear introduction to the work of a very difficult writer.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kamil

    Not the easiest introduction but Foucault is not easy. Later chapters regarding his works on sexuality and prison were more accessible then earlier ones. Nonetheless it definitely was a good gymnastic of my mind.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Cunningham

    Foucault is one of those writers/philosophers/thinkers/activists that you more-or-less have to be familiar with, one way or the other, like it or not. And his writings and interviews make this... frustrating. I started The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences only to abandon it because his writing is obscure, obtuse, verbose, inaccessible, etc. I read the The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature and came away thinking him kind of an asshole, kind of amoral, kind of full of h Foucault is one of those writers/philosophers/thinkers/activists that you more-or-less have to be familiar with, one way or the other, like it or not. And his writings and interviews make this... frustrating. I started The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences only to abandon it because his writing is obscure, obtuse, verbose, inaccessible, etc. I read the The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature and came away thinking him kind of an asshole, kind of amoral, kind of full of himself, etc. It's good to know that even academics, ones who clearly appreciate much of what Foucault has to say, feel the same way. That said, reading the 'Very Short Introduction' makes me think I might need to go back and tackle some of his works. It also makes me feel like much of what Foucault supposedly said/thought/showed/etc. is misattributed and/or misunderstood, both by those who hate "post-modern" and those who claim for themselves the title/mantle of "critical", "social justice"/"anti"-injustice, and, yes, "post-modern". This also makes me think I might need to go back and force myself to tackle some of this works. Oh, if only I had 10 lifetimes to spend reading. Perhaps I will get to that. At the very least, this has prompted me to start looking for a more complete, less "Very Short" summary/discussion/textbook of Foucault's thought.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David Corvine

    Excellent understandable introduction to Foucault, who is becoming more relevant as the panopticon tightens its insidious grip.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jean Paul Govè

    To a certain extent, Foucault as a person in terror of being caught in one fixed identity, universalises himself in his philosophy when he "assumes" that the aim should be to fight against strong identities, or fight for the marginalised simply by weakening core identities. Foucault is obviously conscious of this, and does not attempt to justify his position, since it would be incoherent for him to say that his method is intrinsically or obviously good. He simply claims that if you don't have th To a certain extent, Foucault as a person in terror of being caught in one fixed identity, universalises himself in his philosophy when he "assumes" that the aim should be to fight against strong identities, or fight for the marginalised simply by weakening core identities. Foucault is obviously conscious of this, and does not attempt to justify his position, since it would be incoherent for him to say that his method is intrinsically or obviously good. He simply claims that if you don't have this terror of a fixed identity, "we must be from different planets". My own terror is that of not having a strong and fixed identity, precisely because, for personal and social reasons, that is the reality I live with... without such an identity, always turning this way and that. Today, Foucault's general direction seems to be in line with the neoliberalism which he would probably have fought against - neoliberalism too relieves us of the "terror" of fixed identities, in fact, of fixed anything. Perhaps we could soon say that people living with the terror of not having a fixed identity are the new marginalised.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    i don't see how this book would be helpful to people just starting out with foucault. i wouldn't really recommend it. it was interesting, but not illuminating. and i think that the author kind of unnecessarily focuses on 'limit-experiences'--when that isn't really a theme in foucault's work. i think a more useful introduction to foucault would offer a conceptual account of foucault (i.e., a chapter on discourse, a chapter on subjectivity, a chapter on power/knowledge, etc.), rather than methodol i don't see how this book would be helpful to people just starting out with foucault. i wouldn't really recommend it. it was interesting, but not illuminating. and i think that the author kind of unnecessarily focuses on 'limit-experiences'--when that isn't really a theme in foucault's work. i think a more useful introduction to foucault would offer a conceptual account of foucault (i.e., a chapter on discourse, a chapter on subjectivity, a chapter on power/knowledge, etc.), rather than methodological and chronological. this was interesting to me as someone who has read a lot of foucault, but i would not recommend it to someone trying to get their head around foucault for the first time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    Struggled a little with this one. I'm aware that Foucault's work isn't the most approachable, hence why I chose a very short introduction to ease me in. Regardless, perhaps it's something in the way Gary Gutting writes, but I found it difficult to keep concentration. I'd read a paragraph and have to go back and reread it 2/3x times. And even then a lot didn't really sink in. It really defies the point of this series. So unfortunately I've finished the book, and looking back on it a few weeks late Struggled a little with this one. I'm aware that Foucault's work isn't the most approachable, hence why I chose a very short introduction to ease me in. Regardless, perhaps it's something in the way Gary Gutting writes, but I found it difficult to keep concentration. I'd read a paragraph and have to go back and reread it 2/3x times. And even then a lot didn't really sink in. It really defies the point of this series. So unfortunately I've finished the book, and looking back on it a few weeks later, I can remember nearly nothing of what it contained, despite me spending so long trudging through it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lazarus P Badpenny Esq

    Short it may be but this was one of the more enjoyable Introductions that I've read. Concise and straightforward in a way that one can only wish all these kind of things were. Short it may be but this was one of the more enjoyable Introductions that I've read. Concise and straightforward in a way that one can only wish all these kind of things were.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Blake

    Reading previously another title in this series, written by Simon Blackburn, I was less than impressed by the glib exclusion of key details and ideas, which practice seemed politically motivated and keen to promote his own views at the expense of intellectual honesty. Perhaps understandably, I was reluctant to pick up another title, but reading that Gutting's is one of the best in the series and desiring a decent understanding of Foucault, I gave them another try. Gutting has given here a clear, Reading previously another title in this series, written by Simon Blackburn, I was less than impressed by the glib exclusion of key details and ideas, which practice seemed politically motivated and keen to promote his own views at the expense of intellectual honesty. Perhaps understandably, I was reluctant to pick up another title, but reading that Gutting's is one of the best in the series and desiring a decent understanding of Foucault, I gave them another try. Gutting has given here a clear, concise and sympathetic outlining of Foucault's main ideas, placing them in historical context and not getting bogged down in huge tracts of detailed thinking where a light touch heightens the effect propitiously. The topics covered range from Foucault's view of "the author", the subject and identity; his books on madness and the Enlightenment; the history of sexuality, which touches on ancient, Christian and modern views and properly his relationship with Nietzschean thought. Picking up Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge for the first time, one might wonder what they've struck, but this book makes clear that Foucault's archaeological practice is closely related to Nietzsche's geneology, though it relies on more evidence and less armchair speculation. These kind of initial insights are invaluable as an introduction to a thinker whose work is not easily penetrated, particularly for a student. For these reasons, I think this is an excellent introduction for a beginner.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Odi Shonga

    This, to me, seems like an excellent introduction to Foucault, especially for somebody who knows nothing about him except for that he can be described as a 'continental philosopher'. I'm currently a student in what might be called the analytic tradition and so, beyond overhearing a few things from friends in other humanities classes, I knew near-zilch about him and kind of harboured a pre-emptive suspicion about anything he might have to say. The great thing about this VSI is that it offers a sys This, to me, seems like an excellent introduction to Foucault, especially for somebody who knows nothing about him except for that he can be described as a 'continental philosopher'. I'm currently a student in what might be called the analytic tradition and so, beyond overhearing a few things from friends in other humanities classes, I knew near-zilch about him and kind of harboured a pre-emptive suspicion about anything he might have to say. The great thing about this VSI is that it offers a systematic, limpid cover of (I think) all his main areas. I have now gleaned a very basic understanding of his views on literature, what is meant by Foucaltian archaeology, genealogy, his views on punishment and sex, and his views on the development of the self, all thanks to this short and very accessible book. I think for anybody who finds within them a frustration or exhaustion with searching for capital-T objective truth and has, over a little bit of studying, begun to empathise with relativistic accounts of knowledge, this introduction to Foucault and (especially) his methods of archaeology and genealogy is highly recommended. I now definitely want to read some of his books as this introduction has led me to believe that Foucault will be my homeboy. It did very briefly mention, however, that Foucault is obscure and difficult to read, which is upsetting because the ideas in this introduction were presented so lucidly and accessibly. I will still give him a shot, though, even with some apprehension.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Harwood

    I don't know how an easy to understand version of an author can be more boring than the original author, but this book is. This makes me fear that Foucault ideas aren't as interesting as I think while reading him. . . . Nah. Gutting, though dry, is very clear and makes a very good introduction to Foucault. But, please God read the master, if you are interested in his ideas, so you can get his beautiful prose with the philosophy. I don't know how an easy to understand version of an author can be more boring than the original author, but this book is. This makes me fear that Foucault ideas aren't as interesting as I think while reading him. . . . Nah. Gutting, though dry, is very clear and makes a very good introduction to Foucault. But, please God read the master, if you are interested in his ideas, so you can get his beautiful prose with the philosophy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Aisha

    God, I'm sooo tired of Marxist & Foucauldian drivel :) but this book is fine & Foucault is rather interesting! God, I'm sooo tired of Marxist & Foucauldian drivel :) but this book is fine & Foucault is rather interesting!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jonas Carlsson

    Reading "Foucault: A Very Short Introduction" is a really interesting experience. To me, this feels less like a traditional academic introduction to an author and his theories. Instead, I feel like Gutting writes this introduction more like a biography on Foucault, telling the story of his life through his works and then explaining the content of those works in the progress. Gutting frames Foucault's life and works in one very fascinating perspective: that Foucault was obsessed with the erasure Reading "Foucault: A Very Short Introduction" is a really interesting experience. To me, this feels less like a traditional academic introduction to an author and his theories. Instead, I feel like Gutting writes this introduction more like a biography on Foucault, telling the story of his life through his works and then explaining the content of those works in the progress. Gutting frames Foucault's life and works in one very fascinating perspective: that Foucault was obsessed with the erasure of the subject, the logic of language, and how trangressive acts (e.g. pushing conventional language to its limits) can be instrumental in producing new knowledge. This thought recontextualises his works nicely - his emphasis on systems of thought over individual agents and his focus on marginalised (trangressive) people both fit well into this line of thinking about Foucault's works. One can feel that Gutting really admires Foucault, but he isn't afraid of critisising Foucault's line or thinking or mentioning some of the critiques others have brought up. In short, this was a really interesting read on a very interesting man, and it was also a nice refresher on some of Foucault's major works. I feel, though, that if someone who had never heard of Foucault before and didn't have a background in philosophy, history, or social sciences picked this up, maybe they wouldn't get as much out of it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    To get a better understanding of Foucault's thought, I decided to ask him to dinner. Here is the conversation that followed. Me: Hey, Michel, do you want to go to that seafood place around the corner? Foucault: I refuse to engage in an act of such clear collaboration with an institution that places problematized individuals in such base subject positions. Me: So you won't even go to a restaurant with me? Foucault: The power relation between the customer and the waiter is one of structural violen To get a better understanding of Foucault's thought, I decided to ask him to dinner. Here is the conversation that followed. Me: Hey, Michel, do you want to go to that seafood place around the corner? Foucault: I refuse to engage in an act of such clear collaboration with an institution that places problematized individuals in such base subject positions. Me: So you won't even go to a restaurant with me? Foucault: The power relation between the customer and the waiter is one of structural violence which has its genealogy in the reformative prisons of the mid eighteenth century. In the clothing expected, the posture required, even the attitude necessitated of waiters there is a clear element of bodily discipline which I cannot condone. And this is to say nothing of the cooks who prepare the food, the farmers who produce it, or the animals of which it is constituted. Me: Well I'm hungry and I myself have always liked sea food so I'm going to just go myself then. Foucault: What is this "self" you speak so confidently of? The hermenuetics of the self by which you discern your taste for seafood has its roots in Catholic confessions. By requiring the penitent to elaborate not only the sin they committed, but the details thereof the church created the very 'self' that subjects now understand as their deepest truth. Me: Okay then, I'll just order you the tilapia to go. Foucault: Actually, I'd prefer the salmon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ali Jones

    In contrast to me having read Foucault in the past, this book made me understand the goal-oriented features in Foucault’ writings. The book presents Foucault’ intents by dividing the goals into chapters (for example literature, genealogy, politics, madness etc.) – this being very helpful when trying to get a wholesome view of how one ought to understand Foucault. This book is what you make of it. It is best to have read a bit of Foucault before you get to reading this book or, if you just want a In contrast to me having read Foucault in the past, this book made me understand the goal-oriented features in Foucault’ writings. The book presents Foucault’ intents by dividing the goals into chapters (for example literature, genealogy, politics, madness etc.) – this being very helpful when trying to get a wholesome view of how one ought to understand Foucault. This book is what you make of it. It is best to have read a bit of Foucault before you get to reading this book or, if you just want a basic introduction, is good anyway to get an adequate understanding of Foucault’s philosophical mission. Besides being an introduction of Foucault’s ideas, it is also a story of what his mission was and what his philosophical path can tell us about Foucault as an identity. 4/5.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ivy-Mabel Fling

    A very useful introduction to Foucault's main ideas. I certainly felt I understood them better after reading it and I do not find philosophy easy to grasp. A very useful introduction to Foucault's main ideas. I certainly felt I understood them better after reading it and I do not find philosophy easy to grasp.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Supriyo Chaudhuri

    Like the other A Very Short Introduction book series I so like, this is a short and yet detailed and immensely interesting exploration of Michael Foucault's works and thinking. This is full of rich insights and ideas, and I feel the book provided me with a toolbox of ideas, just as Foucault thought his own work would do. Like the other A Very Short Introduction book series I so like, this is a short and yet detailed and immensely interesting exploration of Michael Foucault's works and thinking. This is full of rich insights and ideas, and I feel the book provided me with a toolbox of ideas, just as Foucault thought his own work would do.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Arno Mosikyan

    QUOTES ‘Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same … Let us leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order’ ‘The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning’ (‘Truth, Power, Self’, 9). Authorship is a social construction, not a natural kind, and it will vary over cultures and over time. Foucault, however, is especially interested in another mode in which authors can relate to language, one in which the poin QUOTES ‘Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same … Let us leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order’ ‘The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning’ (‘Truth, Power, Self’, 9). Authorship is a social construction, not a natural kind, and it will vary over cultures and over time. Foucault, however, is especially interested in another mode in which authors can relate to language, one in which the point is not to use language for self-expression but to lose the self in language. Political discussions should be driven by the concrete problems that raise our questions, not by the established theories that claim to be able to answer them. Foucault’s idea of an archaeology of thought is closely linked to the modernist literary idea that language is a source of thought in its own right, not merely an instrument for expressing the ideas of those who use it. Foucault begins with the fact that, at any given period in a given domain, there are substantial constraints on how people are able to think. Foucault’s idea is that every mode of thinking involves implicit rules (maybe not even formulable by those following them) that materially restrict the range of thought. We will not be so much interested in, say, Hume or Darwin as in what made Hume or Darwin possible. This is the root of Foucault’s famous ‘marginalization of the subject’. It is not that he denies the reality or even the supreme ethical importance of the individual consciousness. But he thinks that individuals operate in a conceptual environment that determines and limits them in ways of which they cannot be aware. The first discovery was that changes in thought are not themselves the products of thought. Foucault was skeptical of grand teleological narratives focused on such goals and proposed instead accounts based on many specific ‘little’ causes, operating independently of one another, with no overall outcome in view. A Foucaultian genealogy, then, is a historical causal explanation that is material, multiple, and corporeal. The mad are freed from their chains but they are ‘imprisoned in a moral world’ (MC, 269). On Foucault’s view, madness as a general phenomenon should be seen as a creditable challenge to normality, even though there are insane horrors to which normality would be a welcome relief. Madness was opposed to reason, but as an alternative mode of human existence, not a simple rejection of it. Consequently, madness (even if disdained or abhorred) was a meaningful challenge to reason. It could engage in ironic dialogue with reason (as in Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly) or claim a domain of human experience and insight not available to reason (as in Bosch’s paintings or Shakespeare’s tragedies). As always for Foucault, archaeology is a comparative matter. In this case, the fundamental comparison is with the Christian view of sexuality. Here he is once again Nietzschean, although without the rhetorical violence of The Antichrist: the rise of Christian sexuality is the corruption of a more admirable antique view.

  22. 4 out of 5

    عِماد عبابنة

    a great series And this volume of it about Foucault is very good in the sense that it's been able to approach a complex thinker and "philosopher" as Foucault and highlighted the main entrances to his thoughts and works smoothly and in a good way that appealed even to non familiar readers of Foucault like myself. I won't deny that on certain occasion on the book I was confused with some ideas of Foucault and its critique so that I need further looking into it. In general Foucault work is amazing in a great series And this volume of it about Foucault is very good in the sense that it's been able to approach a complex thinker and "philosopher" as Foucault and highlighted the main entrances to his thoughts and works smoothly and in a good way that appealed even to non familiar readers of Foucault like myself. I won't deny that on certain occasion on the book I was confused with some ideas of Foucault and its critique so that I need further looking into it. In general Foucault work is amazing in the aspect of being original both on the level of the subjects he explored or the methodology he innovated (namely Archeology and Geneology ), and the Duality of mainstream norms and Marginalized groups (both in knowledge and error , and social norms and opposed marginalized groups) I am sure a mind challenging journey will wait me in the seas of Foucault's work and ideas that I need to navigate deeply through them

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mengsen Zhang

    I got this book as a Christmas present from my dear friends. It's a nice primer before reading Foucault's text. I did not feel a strong colored value from the author in his description of Foucault's work. The introduction is in a personal and developmental fasion. It gave me the impression of Foucault as a evolving organism of thoughts rather than a label of some systematic philosophical construction. In some arguments, I read a bit of expectation of political usefulness of some philosophical id I got this book as a Christmas present from my dear friends. It's a nice primer before reading Foucault's text. I did not feel a strong colored value from the author in his description of Foucault's work. The introduction is in a personal and developmental fasion. It gave me the impression of Foucault as a evolving organism of thoughts rather than a label of some systematic philosophical construction. In some arguments, I read a bit of expectation of political usefulness of some philosophical ideas, which I suspect is not from Foucault. anyways, the book makes me think Foucault should become a good friend. I saw my own thinking on the tension between history and truth, which is being gradually relieved by contemplating on self.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jamille

    I bought this book as my lecturer began introducing us/the class to Foucault and I found him very interesting. I didn't expect this book to be as readable as I actually is. The author does outstanding to engage with the reader. Prior to reading this some of the other reviewers said it was a "complex", "difficult" read, this was false. The book itself, not only introduces some of Foucault's interesting theories but it also tell's you about why he is like he is, and why his personal life made him I bought this book as my lecturer began introducing us/the class to Foucault and I found him very interesting. I didn't expect this book to be as readable as I actually is. The author does outstanding to engage with the reader. Prior to reading this some of the other reviewers said it was a "complex", "difficult" read, this was false. The book itself, not only introduces some of Foucault's interesting theories but it also tell's you about why he is like he is, and why his personal life made him become the type of academic he was. Overall, I would advise anyone who is interested in media and obviously Foucault to definitely read this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Billie Cotterman

    Usually with the "A Very Short Introduction" series, I can pick up any book in the series, and as an educated, curious person, read whatever it is about. Foucault, however, was not the case. It's not really an introduction so much as a summarization of Foucault major topics written for an audience who is already familiar with the themes and people in Foucault's world. I'm sure it probably also helps to have read a lot of Foucault before trying to read this AVSI book. I was going to use it as an Usually with the "A Very Short Introduction" series, I can pick up any book in the series, and as an educated, curious person, read whatever it is about. Foucault, however, was not the case. It's not really an introduction so much as a summarization of Foucault major topics written for an audience who is already familiar with the themes and people in Foucault's world. I'm sure it probably also helps to have read a lot of Foucault before trying to read this AVSI book. I was going to use it as an intro before I started reading Foucault, but now I'm as confused as I was before I read this.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Though it's a very good book, this is one of the more convoluted of the very short introduction serious. Though, in all fairness, maybe that's a difficult task with thought like Foucault's. That being said, this book covers Foucault's writings clearly and succinctly. It also offers an overall trajectory and holistic sense of his writing. All-in-all a rather good book--even for the reader who's read a few of Foucault's books. Though it's a very good book, this is one of the more convoluted of the very short introduction serious. Though, in all fairness, maybe that's a difficult task with thought like Foucault's. That being said, this book covers Foucault's writings clearly and succinctly. It also offers an overall trajectory and holistic sense of his writing. All-in-all a rather good book--even for the reader who's read a few of Foucault's books.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nick Hylands-white

    A good intro to the major works of Foucault. Briefly summarises Foucault's approaches and themes, pulls out a few illustrative points and relates them to some modern day examples. One criticism is that the author was a bit presumptive when it came to using the specific terminology of the subject. Nothing that wikipedia can't help you out on though A good intro to the major works of Foucault. Briefly summarises Foucault's approaches and themes, pulls out a few illustrative points and relates them to some modern day examples. One criticism is that the author was a bit presumptive when it came to using the specific terminology of the subject. Nothing that wikipedia can't help you out on though

  28. 5 out of 5

    Elen

    Figured getting some background and context on Foucault would be helpful, considering I don't really get his references to philosophers. Pros is its easy to read and is in fact short. But I almost stopped reading when the author cited John Rawls as someone who offered "solutions" to the problems Foucault was expounding on. Figured getting some background and context on Foucault would be helpful, considering I don't really get his references to philosophers. Pros is its easy to read and is in fact short. But I almost stopped reading when the author cited John Rawls as someone who offered "solutions" to the problems Foucault was expounding on.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Henna

    A very good and easy to understand introduction to Michel Foucault and overview of his works and thoughts, especially for someone who has never before read anything about Foucault (such as me). Really gripping too, and now I really want to read Foucault's actual work, especially his histories of sexuality, madness, and crime and punishment. A very good and easy to understand introduction to Michel Foucault and overview of his works and thoughts, especially for someone who has never before read anything about Foucault (such as me). Really gripping too, and now I really want to read Foucault's actual work, especially his histories of sexuality, madness, and crime and punishment.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sagely

    This is a helpful intro to Foucault's thought. The Very Short Introduction offers just that: a great starting point/orientation to Foucault. Well worth reading. This is a helpful intro to Foucault's thought. The Very Short Introduction offers just that: a great starting point/orientation to Foucault. Well worth reading.

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