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The Foucault Reader

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  1,766 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
Michel Foucault was one of the most influential thinkers in the contemporary world, someone whose work has affected the teaching of half a dozen disciplines ranging from literary criticism to the history of criminology. But of his many books, not one offers a satisfactory introduction to the entire complex body of his work. The Foucault Reader was commissioned precisely to ...more
Paperback, 390 pages
Published November 12th 1984 by Vintage
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Jan 17, 2015 Jeremy rated it really liked it
It's been a while since I read Discipline and Punish and Madness and Civilization, so I figured it was time for a refresher in Foucault's thinking. Reading this collection of excerpts from his books along with shorter articles and interviews, I'm amazed at how (am I really writing this about a french intellectual?) weirdly clear Foucualt's broader project was.

This primer does an excellent job of pointing to the central tenants of his historical analysis about power, public health, incarceration
Jun 25, 2012 Khands rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
The Foucault Reader is a compendium of Foucault's most important writings which are helpfully clarified in a series of interviews with the author.

Foucault's philosophical position is at least in part deconstructionism. Discounting linear historical structures he champions the notion that an accumulation of genealogical information will lead to a more useful and accurate knowledge downplaying the mythification of the past so common today.
Foucault brings into play a multiplicity of factors that d
Peter Tieryas
Nov 16, 2014 Peter Tieryas rated it it was amazing
I like bald philosophers.
Nov 06, 2012 John rated it liked it
Ahhhh....I don't know. This is not fun to read. I tried really really hard to understand all of it, and it gave me a headache. I was just concentrating SO HARD on the discursive regimes, is the thing. This is all just so lacking in everything...human. There is no humanity in Foucault's writing. Everything is language, and discourse, and knowledge and power created by and exercised through discourse. Nothing is real, nothing has continuity- there's no such thing as liberty, "the concept of ...more
Jee Koh
Feb 17, 2014 Jee Koh rated it it was amazing
After encountering the critical thought of Nietzsche, I have wondered how to apply it to social and political problems. Foucault shows one way of doing so, through the genealogical analysis of power relations in society.

From an interview in Power/Knowledge:
The history which bears and determines us has the form of a war rather than that of a language: relations of power, not relations of meaning. History has no "meaning," though it is not to say that it is absurd or incoherent. On the contrary, i
Sep 17, 2015 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
This book is a good overview on Foucault's theories with regard to how we relate to power, how we relate to one another, and how we relate to ourselves. The earliest part of the book is about madness, and the later essays are about sex. The middle of the book, which excerpts a lot of material from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, is about institutions of penality.

In contrast to thinkers like Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gilles Deleuze / Felix Guatari, Foucault
Kevin J. Rogers
Feb 04, 2008 Kevin J. Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of philosophy, and thinking in general.
I literally judged this book by its cover, picking it up while browsing around in a Waldenbooks shortly after college. I just thought the picture of Foucault on the cover was cool; it was a lucky break, because the book is an outstanding introduction to Foucault's thought and methodology, and I've been working through his ouevre ever since. I highly recommend this book as an introduction to this profound thinker's original and unique approach to doing philosophy.
Lisa Jahn
Feb 25, 2010 Lisa Jahn rated it really liked it
Very interesting look at Power and Discipline.
Foucault’s work develops a historical account of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects.
Foucault’s interest is to present a genealogical account of the transition from the classical age to modern forms of power. The success of disciplinary power in the seventeenth and eighteenth century stemmed from a transition in methods. Visible acts of violence, such as public executions or torture, were rendered unnecessar
Haythem Bastawy
Aug 18, 2014 Haythem Bastawy rated it it was amazing
I have not read Foucault before and The Foucault Reader has been an excellent introduction for me to the writings of the renowned philosopher. It contains large excerpts and chapters from many of his works, giving an insight into the nature of the work it has been taken from. For me the most relevant and the most interesting section is the one on the Enlightenment and modernity.
Jan 23, 2010 Lynda rated it liked it
This is a good overview of Foucault's works. What struck me is how much of his work is influenced by the prejudices in his life and his support of marginalized groups. Trained in psychology, he is an example of the scientist whose work has moved into philosophy.
Aug 18, 2012 Neekta rated it it was amazing
My brain hurt after each essay but that was mostly because it'd been totally blown to bits by brilliance.
Oct 10, 2016 Brandt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: discursive cognitizers

On the short-list of crucial philosophical theorists of the 20th century, you would be pressed to justify why Michel Foucault would not be near the top. This anthology The Foucault Reader, can be informative in attempting to decipher, clarify, and express the system that Foucault relied upon to bring some of his most famous writings to culmination. From the origins of psychiatry in Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, to the genesis of the prison system in Discip

Oct 06, 2013 GONZA rated it really liked it
....Kant indicates right away that the "way out" that characterizes Enlightenment is a process that releases us from the status of "immaturity." And by "immaturity," he means a certain state of our will that makes us accept someone else's authority to lead us in areas where the use of reason is called for. Kant gives three examples: we are in a state of "immaturity" when a book takes the place of our understanding, when a spiritual director takes the place of our conscience, when a doctor ...more
Michael Dorais
May 19, 2013 Michael Dorais rated it it was ok
I rated this as "OK". I am glad to have read it because I hear Foucault referred to so often. This was a difficult read. Granted, what Foucault tries to do is very difficult to express, because what is normally taken straightforwardly is approached by him obliquely and archaeologically. On the other hand, I would rate the interviews with Foucault printed in this book as 3 "Liked it".

Having said that, if you are curious about Foucault and want to sample is work, this is a a good book to read.

I t
Tim C
Jun 27, 2015 Tim C rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Having begun by reading about Foucault this seemed like the right book with which to dip my toe into the vast and deep waters of actually attempting to read his writings. I have to say I did so with some trepidation - but - much to my surprise, I found him eminently readble! Especially the first piece, 'What is Enlightenment?' which is actually quite lyrical. Although I wouldn't go so far as to claim I understood all of the writings here, some of which connected more with my academic interests t ...more
Benjamin A'Lee
Selections from quite a broad selection of Foucault’s work; unfortunately, this naturally makes it difficult to get more than a very shallow understanding of each before moving on to the next. Particularly in the sections from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, it felt like being dropped into the middle without the necessary background concepts which might have been developed further if reading the book itself from the beginning. The sections from Madness and Civilization: A History ...more
Apr 25, 2013 Jason rated it it was ok
This book was written way to complicated for me. There was a part in the book where Foucault was quoted as saying he felt he needed to write a book that someone could walk away having learned something from it. Although I might have grasped larger concepts in the book, small details of larger concepts were lost due to the overly theoretical explainations. Perhaps this wasnt a great starting point for reading philosophy. This book might be better to come back to after a solid base of Greek and ...more
Brandon Meredith
Feb 06, 2009 Brandon Meredith marked it as to-read
My roommate, VJ, gave me a book of Foucault's writings on "Power" that I found completely context-less and therefore uninviting. He at the same time gave me a book called "A Foucault Primer." This book is actually a giant balloon made of impenetrable writing filled with incredible amounts of hot air. The back of the book (ironically?) says that the authors "bring Foucault's work into focus for the uninitiated." Seriously? I can't think of a worse way to start learning about Foucault.

This is not
Here's why this book fails, in my opinion:
In order to understand Foucault, you have to read complete works. Choosing a couple of pages here and a couple of pages there does not work. The editor of this book (Rabinow) chose sections from multiple books, but these sections (in my view) don't cohere to offer any broad sketch of Foucault's thinking.
However, there are some stand-alone essays in this book that are fantastic (What is an Author? What is Enlightenment?) as well as a good introduction by
Oct 04, 2008 Carmen rated it did not like it
Shelves: education
I wouldn't read this book if I didn't have to. I don't get it and I'm not sure that I want to. As far as I can tell, everything is about power structures and how that corrupts everything. It all seems very humorless and dreadful to me but Foucault is heralded by so many, so perhaps eventually I'll come to appreciate it. However, for the moment, it just seems like a lot of hot air. Or perhaps it's really just for intellectuals and, therefore, beyond my mental capacity. Or, maybe you have to be ...more
I have less and less respect for Foucault the older I get. I saw this in an airport bookstore and bought it, twenty-five years after an introductory course in college.

I don't think his ideas are all that original, logical, or relevant. He is not holding up well over time. I get more out of Nietzsche and Marcus Aurelius.

I think deconstructionism has its place, yet rational meaning and conventional morality are necessary.

His dad was a doctor, and he himself was pre-med and decided to go a differen
Jul 22, 2007 Jerry rated it really liked it
Not bad, a good collection spanning a wide range of topics. It doesn't really go in depth too much into any of the topics but gives a good taste of the gist of some of the issues. I was annoyed that whole chapters of Discipline and Punish and The Birth of the Clinic were included, because it seems like if you were into Foucault, it's pretty redundant, cause you probably already have those books. The interviews and other formats were really nice, though.
May 03, 2011 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Nothing but 5 stars for Foucault himself, and overall I appreciated the selection and the organization, and the introduction (especially the debate with Noam Chomsky), but in cases where I had read the original (or rather an unabridged translation of the original), I found the version in here to be excessively abridged. Makes me wonder about the bulk of the writings, of which I have not had time to read the originals (which is why I got this book).
Jul 16, 2009 SJ rated it it was ok
It's not that I dont' like Foucault..I'm just getting to know him and so far, I respect him immensely. I just think that some of these exerpts taken without context of the rest of the work isn't that useful. It's a great compilation for those who are familar with his works and want a one-stop shop. However, if you need to really delve into his works and get to know him for the first time, this isn't the book for you, in my opinion.
Jamie Siemsen
Feb 04, 2016 Jamie Siemsen rated it really liked it
This is a really helpful tool for anyone looking to get a overview of Foucault's work and his philosophical beliefs. I used this collection for a Modern Philosophy project (presentation and essay), and it made my job way easier. Plus, I got an A so I was absolutely thrilled (:

Foucault is quite the provocative thinker. I thoroughly enjoyed looking into his historical examinations of the sciences and of modern institutions.
Oct 22, 2011 Carolyn rated it it was ok
The only reason Foucault is a favourite is for the dense, richly worded research and philosophy he's somehow spun into prosaic form. Selected readings, companion to a long list of footnotes, do not flatter his creativity and unique lengthy, narrative form. It's a shame to imagine how many people have been put off his work by reading mere excerpts in collections such as this. Please choose a complete work rather than these petite essays and savour the extent of Michel's fluidity.
Eric Steere
Jan 05, 2012 Eric Steere rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rabinow's introduction is worth the price of admission here. Succinct and precise, his take on Foucault is much like Foucault's take on modernity in that he questions from where and what context Foucault's [discourse] was promulgated. Foucault's reading of the Enlightenment is so much of a gas, the other chapters, just great.
Jan 03, 2010 Kat rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Philosophy buffs
Foucault is awesome. He rejects being pegged in an ideological corner. I admire his intellect.

I enjoyed the intro which includes a discusion on the debate between Chomsky and Foucault ("Human Nature: Power vs. Justice"). (The debate is on Youtube, as well, so if you don`t read this book, I recommend the Youtube).
May 23, 2008 Andrea rated it really liked it
if you want to learn about michele foucault's thoughts on people in general, this is a great resource. It takes you through his thoughts on all things from the history of criminology to sexuality. There are also interviews with Foucault, showing the personal thoughts on this brilliant contemporary philosopher.
Andrew Boyle
Oct 02, 2011 Andrew Boyle rated it really liked it
Foucault is an engaging and extremely unique thinker. I suppose this was a decent enough introduction, it's my first exposure to Foucault, but someone else will have to evaluate the quality of the compilation itself.
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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...

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