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The Archaeology of Knowledge

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  4,224 ratings  ·  105 reviews
Madness, sexuality, power, knowledge-are these facts of life or simply parts of speech? In a series of works, historian Michel Foucault excavated the hidden assumptions that govern the way we live & think. The Archaeology of Knowledge begins at the level of 'things said' & moves quickly to illuminate the connections between knowledge, language & action in a sty ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published July 11th 2012 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1969)
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Aug 24, 2010 David marked it as maybe-later  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Peter Mendelsund
Shelves: france
I might as well admit it up front. The reason I bought this book last week was that the cover was hot. Hot as in attractive. It wooed me. (No, it's not this 1980s green-and-purple nightmare you see on your computer monitor now. As usual, most of the Goodreads librarians are too busy playing hall monitor and tossing Otis's salad in the Goodreads Feedback group to attend to cover design updates. So we're left with this cover. An unusually competent librarian has since added the cover and it appear ...more
I mean, it's amazing, but it is also kind of boring.
Rachel Smalter Hall
One of my dear friends told me that she believed Foucault had made feminism possible for women. He also made me want to put a stick in my eye, while I was reading this book. Really, Foucault? Do you really have to be so damned inscrutable??

The rewards for making it to the end of Archaeology of Knowledge are so worth it, though. In his own way, Foucault pokes and prods until he completely convinces you that disciplines are little more than arbitrary, fragile, man-made constructions--artificial bo
Dense. Dense. Dense. Also pretty brilliant. I had to slog through this one just to make sure the main ideas I'm building off of for my thesis aren't being misrepresented (a recurring nightmare of mine...[at my thesis defense] 'So, did you actually read Foucault?'). This man's mind works so differently from others', and because he's so crazy smart, he spends most of his time justifying the possibility of his ideas. I have a hunch that an abridged version of this one would be all of 50-odd pages, ...more
This reading was quite a brain exercise! It was quite hard to follow what he's trying to communicate, which in my opinion is either; too simple and he's over-complicating it or, as my mum used to say; he's just studying the crab's immortality.

I think it all could be summed up to given the way information is gathered and interpreted, it will never have a clear meaning since it's already basically just part of another network of information (and we are all on different networks), and by that premi
Luís Blue Yorkie
More than explaining a horizon of intelligibility, Foucault is simply describing a logical open space in which there is a certain discourse. To open this logical space, Foucault restores exegesis of significant monuments left by mankind, who had been the concern of traditional humanism, by quasi-structuralist development sets of insignificant elements.The notion of rarity, by Foucault, allows precisely identify what is rigorous and meaningful for a time, without thereby archaeologist shall have ...more
This is no doubt one of the most important methodological texts written for the humanities. The applications are endless. Foucault's apparatus is somewhat bulky and almost unusable in places. I do not think that the entire book could be applied to one specific project. I see this as more a tool bag from which a scholar might take out particular tools to help see histories and discourses in different ways. In this way, The Archeology of Knowledge is not so much a work of theory, as it is a method ...more
Mar 19, 2008 Ellen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ellen by: lily, sorta.
i am to-read this book because i like to be simultaneously amazed and kind of bored.
I think it's helpful to think of this book, which I admit I struggled through, as something of the introduction to the methodology that would later result in relative page-turners like Discipline and Punish and the three volumes of The History of Sexuality. Of course, Foucault himself would hate this: One of his arguments is that scholars remain committed to the antiquated notion that authors repeat themselves across their texts. Ultimately, the point is that in excavating history we should seek ...more
This book is great. Someone called it boring. Fool! It's the clearest thing Foucault has ever written, while still dipping into the occasional grammatically-challenged (albeit poetic) run-on sentences and drama I have always known and loved. It's best read as the closing of a series of books in which Foucault is analyzing (while trying to formulate a way of analyzing) institutions. It works well on its own but if you really want to see where Foucault is coming from read, in order: Madness and Ci ...more
Avie Flanagan Vaughan
Another author whose entire oeuvre, essentially, changed the course of my life as a critical thinker. When I read this, I had been in a sort of Jane Austen / the Romantic poets phase for quite some time, and I was utterly bored with literature, with studying literature, with repeatedly canvassing the same tired books. Then I found Garcia Marquez and Foucault, I discovered the genuine critical theory of literature, and I embarked upon an infatuation with semiotics, (post)structuralist, and postmo ...more
Sayeed Mohd
Among other things I like the book for the way it traverses meanings to reveal newer sense in words, and that in almost every sentence.
Raúl Vázquez
El importante compositor francés, Olivier Messiaen, escribió una obra teórica sobre los diversos aspectos rítmicos, melódicos y conceptuales desarrollados por él mismo y vertidos en su basta obra. Si hay un texto en las ciencias humanas que se equipare al elaborado por Messiaen en la música, es definitivamente La Arqueología del Saber. Foucault, en una línea heredera de Althusser y conocedor de lo "exótico" de su análisis, elabora en esta obra una síntesis de su propuesta meta-epistemológica par ...more
John Lucy
For whatever reason, Foucault feels the need to defend himself against critics, and perhaps defend himself against his own critiques. The result is that he embarks on a quest to determine how we are able to know, how the course of knowledge and discourse change, how we are able to discourse at all. Discourse is the name of the game, so you'll read a lot about what he calls "discursive formations." As Foucault himself says, I'm not sure that he really is saying anything much in this work, which i ...more
Basically IE-addicted Michel builds a thesis out of fragments (like describing the totality of a culture from the remains of it sitting in a junk store; are you really making a thesis or is it another grab-bag, okay please skleletize an argument path, oh, you can't? Then Michel your work is merely ranting. It may be entertaining for the brainy, but it's still not truly organized). Foucault is another remnant interpreter (structuralists minus Piaget, all post-structuralists), studying gestures an ...more
Chris Radjenovich
I will not lie when I say this is a book I will be going back to for a long time to come. Despite coming out of it understanding the generality of the topic, the language used is dense, frustrating, and at times extremely redundant. There are times where I read the same chapter three times in a roe just to grasp the essence of what Foucault was saying. And despite it, I know I will have to return to this book many time in the future.

But the fact that I'm willing to come back to it proves the how
Chris Michael
Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge is one of the most difficult and convoluted books of theory I have ever encountered, but it is also one of the most fascinating. The book is essentially a massive thought exercise as Foucault challenges us to step outside of a linear way of viewing history and talking/thinking about things. The thing that makes this book so interesting is that Foucault seems to realize the complexity of his theory and the magnitude of what he is trying to do in creating ...more
This is the last of Foucault's books that I read. Now that I'm finished, I feel that I can gain so much more from his later works, instead of the more introductory level lessons learned. I remember reading History of Sexuality in a university course and having it only briefly mentioned that Foucault is dealing with 'discourses' of sexuality–discourse, of course, only having a very vague definition relating to interacting systems, positionalities, etc–which now I see is a fatal simplification.

Andrew Hathaway
This didn't click with me nearly as well as Discipline and Punish or History of Sexuality Vol. I. He spends a laborious amount of time constructing the exact definition of discourse that he is going to be discussing, as well as taking into consideration almost every counter-argument that could be used against him, that I felt I was reading an elaborate note tree instead of a piece of theory. It's not difficult to read, exactly, but when he finally gets to his argument about the ways language is ...more
يوسف زهدى
كتاب فلسفي مرهق, فكرته الأساسية في تحليل مباديء العلوم والمعرفة عن طريق تكسير العلوم المتدارسة وتأريخها والعودة لأصولها عن طريق محاولة مستنيرة لحذف التأثر باللغة المحيطة والمجتمع (او ده خلاصة اللي أنا فهمته من الكتاب و في الأرجح لم استفد من كل او بالكاد نصف ما فيه)
اعتقد وبشدة إن موضوع الكتاب متميز ويستحق الدراسة أكتر, لكن لغة الكتاب فعلا مرهقة وصعبة على القاريء المتوسط اللي زي حالاتي, اعتقد برضه إن ممكن مؤلفين تانيين يكتبوا في نفس الموضوع باستخدام لغة ابسط ومفردات وامثلة أسهل عشان ناس أكتر تستفي
Initial review: what the fuck did I get myself into

Finished review: Well, after a month of metro riding and two round trip bus rides to New York and back, I finally finished this. It is probably the densest, heaviest reading I've ever done -- I feel like to really understand what was going on, for the first two sections of the book, I would have had to chart out individual points per sentence. Foucault packed a ridiculous amount of detail into these 200-odd pages, which made for a very slow read
I hate to say that the Emperor has no clothes and perhaps this wasn't the best book to begin my Foucalt journey with; however... I found it to be completely rediculous, meticulous, superfluous, and unnecessary. Certainly there are nuggets of lucid and intriguing points buried in his winding and verbose prose. The reality is that no one should have to take the time currently required to make sense of what he is attempting to say (language and words have power). Even for a frenchman in translation ...more
"I cannot accept that one can analyse scientific discourses in their succession without referring them to something like a constituent activity, without recognising even in their hesitations the opening of an original project or a fundamental teleology, without discovering the profound continuity that links them, and leads them to the point at which we can grasp them; I cannot accept that one can analyse the development of reason in this way, and free the history of thought from all taint of sub ...more
After the almost breezy style of "Discipline and Punish" and "Madness and Civilization" as well as the other fragments of Foucault I'd read, this was pretty challenging. It's an interesting approach he develops, and because it frames his more specific researches (into the asylum, the prison, etc.), you really get an idea of his larger project. Furthermore, there's plenty of evidence in here that Foucault is not a nihilist, but rather has a method and a praxis. Useful weaponry against d-bag conse ...more
I couldn't tell if it was a translation issue or the writing style of the book was just that incoherent, but I felt like I was reading in another language for most of the book. Oddly, the appended lecture transcript was incredibly readable. Part of this was word use, but a big part was also punctuation and using complete sentences. This made a dense topic pretty indecipherable, and considering it's a translation and thus went through English-language editing, there really isn't an excuse for the ...more
Mark Bowles
A Theory of Discourse
1. The archaeological analysis of the human sciences was meant to reveal the rules of formation, and modes of organization of thought which eluded the consciousness of the scientist yet were fundamental to scientific discourse
2. Archaeology then permitted Foucault to discuss the transformations in the field of historical knowledge
3. Two ways to construct a history of thought
a) To preserve the sovereignty of the subject. To see an uninterrupted continuity
b) Foucault’s way. De
ryan bears
i swear, once your done reading foucault you feel as if you've taken in something deep. but the whole time im reading im like get to the point - sometimes he does. discourse, yup. this book has his famous remarks in the intro: "don't ask me who i am, don't ask me to stay the same blah blah... i hate that line. sounds like some hippie on a mundane acid trip. no wonder he moved to san francisco.
I was going to give this three stars because much of it floated well above my head (especially the third part) but the last two paragraphs were so lucid and worth it that I bumped it to four stars. Still, from what I did get out of it, I understand Foucault and his method much better than before.
Foucault's realization of his methodological tenets is groping, timid, and frustrating for its revision of use of terms like "discourse," but its awkward rendering nevertheless sheds light on the thinker's compelling philosophy and method, pairing well with the later History of Sexuality.
Adrian Colesberry
This was an incredibly dense book to get through. His thought takes some real study to understand. I'm a bigger fan of his histories of sexuality and punishment, but maybe that's because I read them subsequent to this when I could understand him better.
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Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought," and lectured at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.

Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences and the prison sys
More about Michel Foucault...
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison The History of Sexuality 1: An Introduction Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences The History of Sexuality 2: The Use of Pleasure

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“You may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said; but don't imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he.” 27 likes
“Are you going to change yet again, shift your position according to the questions that are put to you, and say that the objections are not really directed at the place from which you are speaking? Are you going to declare yet again that you have never been what you have been reproached with being? Are you already preparing the way out that will enable you in your next book to spring up somewhere else and declare as you're now doing: no, no, I'm not where you are lying in wait for me, but over here, laughing at you?'
'What, do you imagine that I would take so much trouble and so much pleasure in writing, do you think that I would keep so persistently to my task, if I were not preparing – with a rather shaky hand – a labyrinth into which I can venture, into which I can move my discourse... in which I can lose myself and appear at last to eyes that I will never have to meet again. I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.”
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