Michel Foucault

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Foucault, Michel (1926-1984), French philosopher, who attempted to show that the basic ideas which people normally take to be permanent truths about human nature and society change in the course of history. His studies challenged the influence of German political philosopher Karl Marx and Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Foucault offered new concepts that challenged people's assumptions about prisons, the police, insurance, care of the mentally ill, gay rights, and welfare.

He sees himself as a transdiscursive author: this term identifies an author (like Foucault) as not just the author of a book, but the author of a theory, tradition, or discipline.

Foucault has influenced various fields like the study of subjectivity, power, knowledge, discourse, history, sexuality, madness, and the penal system. He is considered as a great influence in new historicism because its not just literature being studied, but the discourse of power, knowledge, sexuality, discipline, different social, political, and cultural practices.

Foucault looks at various topics as discourses: ways of constituting knowledge, together with social practices, forms of subjectivity and the power relations which inhere in such knowledges, and the relations between them.

Example: the discourse of language is not looked at as the linguistic codes that generate a set of statements , rather it deals with rules that govern the practice of language, who is entitled to speak , and how language prohibits some and marginalize others . These rules are not mysteriously imbedded deep in the discourse , but are to be found by looking at the contexts and institutions in which discourse is spoken , such as hospitals and asylums or professions and disciplines. " (Foucault As An Author , p10)

Language can be used to classify people (sometimes permanently) with some socially charged labels: criminals, terrorists, communists, gays, insane, etc. This is how power...