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The Birth of the Clinic

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,150 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In this remarkable book Michel Foucault, one of the most influential thinkers of recent times, calls us to look critically at specific historical events in order to uncover new layers of significance. In doing so, he challenges our assumptions not only about history, but also about the nature of language and reason, even of truth. The scope of such an undertaking is vast, ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published December 6th 2012 by Routledge (first published 1963)
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This is a remarkably interesting book. In many ways it is a working out of the same ideas presented in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences this time in relation to the development of what Foucault refers to as the clinical gaze. This isn’t so much a history of the clinic, but rather of the clinical, a history of medicine from nearly the time of the French Revolution through to about the 1850s or so, I guess. Some of the ideas here are very clever.

I don’t want to map out th
I finished this on the bus the other day and a couple things come to mind:

1. It's one of his most approachable, even if it is a bit clunky in spots.
2. I'd recommend reading it before On the Order of Things as it's a good introduction to his study of epistemological change.
3. There's some very sharp reminders in here of why Foucault is considered a descendent of Nietzsche. The one most important for me is that, unlike most philosophers, he's a damn good writer. His love of language shines almost


Beneath the outstretched arms of the statue, Christus Consolatur, at the illustrious Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, there is a simple inscription: “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” This simple phrase reflects the hopes and aspirations of many who turn to the medical profession.

Foucault here attempts an 'archaeology' of the medical field - he reconstructs a history of ideas of how medicine was per
Jan Martinek
Well, that was certainly a thrilling ride through the medicine of the ca. 1760s—1820s. I wasn't able to read it all at once — several tries ended in exhaustion and pretending that the book does not even exist :) I always needed to take a deep breath before diving back into it — it's a dense text. Though, I finished the second half in a week and it's been great.

I'd recommend to read this book to anyone who wants to use the word „science“. Yes. The book describes in painful detail everything relat
Oliver Bateman
This short but dense text should be read in conjunction with Discipline and Punish and Madness and Civilization. More specifically, it should probably be read after them, given how complicated and important (as well as "important") it is. Here we have Foucault's account of a series of "scientific revolutions" (although he would not use the term as such) in which the nature of discourse-derived "scientificity" changed for the field of clinical medicine on account of sometimes profound, sometimes ...more
In "Reading Capital" Althusser defines philosophical work as an intervention in science, an exposing of what the object of a science is. "The Birth of the Clinic" is a philosophical work in this sense.

"The Birth of the Clinic" does not make as clear use of the power/knowledge paradigm that characterizes Foucault's other work. Modern medicine is hardly some absolute, objective science that we, after years of struggling with medieval medicines, happened to stumble upon; but neither was it borne mo
Un poco complejo, pero interesante... Digamos, intermitente. Se remite a una época específica en Francia. Complicado para los que no manejan términos básicos de medicina. Bastante filosofía, algo de política, reformas, etc.
Incluye capítulos muy buenos: "Antigüedad de la clínica", "Ver, saber", "Abrid algunos cadáveres".
Tyler Nielsen
This is one of those books in which it feels like the author is intentionally obscure -- almost in a self-aggrandizing way. To use one of Foucault's favorite (or at least most frequent) criticisms against others (in this text), this book is needlessly prolix; he throws that word around like it's going out of style. Oh, wait.

In it, Foucault examines the emergence of the clinic as a teaching hospital as opposed to a hospital intended solely to cure the sick. If you're going to tackle this work, y
Like Foucault, it all begins with Descartes, and how Enlightenment casts out and "others" the mentally ill. Unfortunately, I discovered that the French edition is more complete, and most English translations are abridged, particularly in the second chapter which really digs into Decartes' Cogito and the effects of "cogito ergo sum" on madmen.
I can see why Foucault is tagged as brilliant; there are some really insightful observations in this book. But I suspect that he has better books than this one, which really jumps all over the place.

His conclusion, though, is so clever and interesting that I'm tempted to give this 4 stars. He really didn't give much of hint where he was going while making the broader argument, though, and if he did, it was hidden under the incredibly dense text.

People should read Foucault, though. His influence
I've accepted that most things are rarely clear after reading Michel Foucault--its fine. Foucault is super ambitious and sharp in this one. Medical perception is a hard one to transform, let alone from a historical standpoint and beginning in the 18th century period (i.e. French Revolution and on). Similar to History of Sexuality, the 18th century is a pivotal time for changing European social and cultural attitudes. These changing social and cultural attitudes lend themselves to power relations ...more
Foucault was predominantly immersed in the late 18th century, or early Modernism (The Enlightenment) when he wrote this book. How did the schematic behind the perfect prison (the Panopticon) become used in the logic of the University, the Clinic, etc. How do populations become disciplined, manipulated, transformed into healthy, productive, docile bodies? Is it a coincidence that the advent of so-called "Modern" medicine occurred at a time when Western Culture was rapidly Capitalizing? The popula ...more
I have a very complicated relationship with this man. He is both my inspiration and subject of intense scrutiny. Foucault is the author that I love to hate and cannot escape. Despite all of the criticism, Foucault is an extremely important philosopher and even if you do not agree with his theoretical position, particularly his concept of decentralized power, his discussion of institutional power and knowledge production is insurmountable.

I have read most of Foucault's major works and the Birth
Nov 26, 2010 Greg rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone in the medical field who enjoys out-of-the-box thinking
Been working on this on and off for four years. I read it for a couple reasons. One, because there seems to me to be a glut of writings and rantings about "postmodernism" bogeymen, but I do not sense there is much reading of the primary sources themselves - Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, et al. Second, this book exposes the structures of knowledge used in medical practice, and because my own life has been invaded by cancer, I desire to be able to get "outside" the typical story provided by the medi ...more
Michelle Marvin
I wish I could give this book 2.5 stars. I think I appreciate what Foucault was saying ... I think I do ... but it's really hard to tell through his florid language, and his ahistorical way of writing history. (I am aware that this is intellectual history, not history proper.) This was the first book by Foucault that I've read, and now I'm going to start Archaeology of Knowledge. Hopefully it is a little bit more approachable than this text, though I've heard otherwise.
My knowledge of the history of medical theory is practically non-existent, and I'm embarrassed to say that I know next to nothing about the French Revolution, so large sections of this book didn't really register with me. It seems like Foucault is using a slightly more direct style than is his wont, but this effect is largely eliminated by the obscurity of his historical references. As with much of his writing, I felt that I understood the beginning and end of the narrative arc pretty well witho ...more
I knew this book would be like tearing trees apart with your bare hands and it does not disappoint. The whole notion of health hinges on the loss of doctors in the continental wars that raged in Europe pre-Revolution, that left France a land of quackery served on a side plate with a self trained country doctor sandwiches. Standards had to be put in place, and the clinic was born to address this quandary over the health space, where was it? who was authorized to be in it? and what could be done t ...more
Much as I love love love Discipline and Punish and enjoyed Madness and Civilization, I found this excruciating and tedious. Foucault just bounces all over the place, trying to tie together various observations about space, seeing, family, empiricism and medical reforms with no clear goal or overall project. I loved the strong, accessible style of discipline and punish, but Birth of the Clinic has a really weak, meandering quality to it, maybe because it's one of Foucault's earlier works. Which i ...more

A really daunting read due to his reliance on philosophical sentence structure and philosophical or archaic terminology. Overall, as a physician, it is remarkable to explore the requisite naïveté and inexperience from which modern clinical medicine was birthed. The advent of touching patients, exploring for causation, examining tissue, and positivism as a replacement of what essentially sounds like witchcraft is especially estimable. Foucault is clearly brilliant. I may explore, either in revie
Neil Turner
Required reading for understanding the modern medical system.
This book is more about the history of knowledge than the history of clinics. Specifically, Foucault, a historian of knowledge (which latter is sometimes termed “episteme” in his work) analyzes the changes in the way medical and clinical knowledge was organized in the modern era (beginning with the Enlightenment). He discusses texts of the period to show how theorists and clinicians of the day interpreted disease and its relation to symptoms and to causes.
Richard K. W. Hsu
This book is phenomenal for Foucault's in-depth discussion on the entanglement of language and death from a sometimes biased observation of medical history. Highly recommend this book to those who are interested in the formation of modernity, which I think highly involved with the transformation of death that brings totally distinguished structure of perception from early modern period.
This book is not interesting but enlightening. If you can get through it (which is tough and requires a clear alert mind and coffee) then it gives you a good understanding of how medicine has changed and developed. I wish Foucault made this more interesting because I am interested in how it developed but this was dry and boring.
Nov 20, 2008 Prash marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
reading this has been surreal. could understand not a single sentence in the preface. haven't read anything by him before. is there some help? been putting the book to some use though. getting my friends to read some paragraphs from the book at random. the looks of bemusement, incomprehension, bewilderment, etc. amuse both parties.
A challenging read but one of those books that changes the way you think. I think this book helps anyone understand why our healthcare system is both as successful and dysfunctional as it is. I think this is a real challenge for the profession of nursing as we seem to be bent on making all the same mistakes that medicine has.
this is the earliest of foucault's work i've ever read. it's organizationally more whimsical than, say, "Discipline and Punish", and the ideas are clearly precursors to his later social and political theories on especially Biopower, but also Power/Knowledge and general governance.
I read this as part of a course on Foucault. As a person who loves definition / classification as a mental exercise, I found it interesting to read Foucault's history / analysis of how modern medical practices came into formation.
Buku ini bercerita tentang sejarah penguasaan atas tubuh manusia. Sungguh memakau kemampuan memaparkan data dan analisis filosofis mengenai hal-hal yang terjadi pada masa pertengahan di Eropa.
Just not as searingly magnificent as Discipline and Punish. Great stuff about "the gaze," the Enlightenment structure of experience, disease, pregnancy. But just not one of his best, in my mind.
This book is a philosophical look at the history of medicine. Some parts, mainly the heavily medical areas, were difficult for me to read, but overall it was very interesting book.
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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 Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language

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“Death left its old tragic heaven and became the lyrical core of man: his invisible truth, his visible secret.” 30 likes
“The first task of the doctor is ... political: the struggle against disease must begin with a war against bad government." Man will be totally and definitively cured only if he is first liberated...” 25 likes
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