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The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (Routledge Classics)
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The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (Routledge Classics)

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  5,294 ratings  ·  115 reviews

"The work numbers among those outward signs of culture the trained eye should find on prominent display in every private library. Have you read it? One's social and intellectual standing depends on the response." -- Michel de Certeau


When one defines "order" as a sorting of priorities, it becomes beautifully clear as to what Foucault is doing here. With virtuoso showmanship
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Paperback, 2nd Edition , 448 pages
Published October 11th 2001 by Routledge (first published 1966)
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Trevor
I hadn't expected this book to be nearly as interesting as it turned out to be. Unfortunately, I've only just finished it and I suspect I'm going to need to think about it for a while yet before I really understand some of the arguments here - but this is a stunningly interesting book. I've a feeling that if you looked up 'erudite' in the dictionary ...

This book was written on the basis of a joke by Borges - where in a short story Borges gives a definition of animals from a supposed Chinese ency
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Scroutch
Nov 01, 2009 Scroutch rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochists
Shelves: theory
I promised Andy that I would review this book only to spite him, but really I'm reviewing it to goad him in to finishing it.

Here's the deal with this book: I read the book twice and wrote a long essay on it, and I realize that I'm still just pretending I understand what it's all about.

Mostly, what I got out of the book is the idea that Foucault doesn't agree with the popular periodization of history. Instead, he wants to create his own periods with their own particular significance.

Secondly, Fou
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Bradley
I have now devoted nearly three months to doing close readings of nearly every book by Michel Foucault. I can die happy :) Except, I'm more confused! I know less now than I did before. And that's precisely the point. We are still living with Philosophical ideas from the Classical Period (i.e. humanism, Neo-Classical Liberalism, Capitalism, etc.). Yet Foucault shows, time and time again, that the institutions established during the Classical Period have taken on a life of their own, often times v ...more
DoctorM
One of those books that I keep coming back to again and again. "The Order of Things" (the French title, "Words and Things" is probably more precise) is one of those key books that re-orders the way you think. It begins with a classic and bravura passage--- an analysis of Velasquez's "Las Meninas" ---that should be required reading for anyone interested in exegesis or hermeneutics. The book goes on to discuss how we categorise and valorise knowledge--- how we choose to draw the boundaries of the ...more
Lukáš
Perhaps the most useful book for getting together some of the Foucault's ideas scattered through his work. First, by putting together a history of epistemes of labour, life and language, showing the patterns of discontinuity, this one offers Focuault a lot of space to elaborate on the current (or perhaps his current) structure of thought about the human sciences. One could clearly discover where the importance of subjectivity, normality and life (biopower) have played role in the formation of mo ...more
Darran Mclaughlin
I'm finished in the sense that I know I'm not going to pick it up and continue again any time soon. I made it to page 273, but I have found it a bit too boring and difficult to find the discipline to continue.



What Foucault has to say is fairly interesting, but after getting the gist of the idea from the introduction, and (to be honest) a synopsis of the contents I don't think there's much to be gained from actually reading the book. I understand the idea of paradigm shift's in our body of knowle
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Daniel Bastian
"Between language and the theory of nature there exists therefore a relation that is of a critical type; to know nature is, in fact, to build upon the basis of language a true language, one that will reveal the conditions in which all language is possible and the limits within which it can have a domain of validity." (p. 161)

There's no need to beat around the bush: The Order of Things is, bar none, the densest read on my shelf to date. Philosophy tyros steer clear; an entry-level text this is no
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Justin Mitchell
So I liked this book ten times more than anything else I have read by Foucault. I finally felt like it was speaking to me. I was all ready to give it five stars, but the final chapter, "The Human Sciences," was, in my opinion, a complete disaster. I kind of want to read it over again, but Foucault's language becomes extremely vague and imprecise, which is comical, considering he spends most of that chapter trying to explain why the human sciences use such vague and imprecise language. But that s ...more
Dan
Foucault is hard to categorize. Some see him as a post-structuralist, others argue that he is a new historicist. I think he sees himself as a descendant of Friedrich Nietzsche.

The first part of this book is great simply on the level of entertainment. Foucault's analysis of Velazquez's Las Meninas stands out as an essay that can be read on its own. I also enjoyed Foucault's discussion of Don Quixote.

The latter part of the book is much more of a historical study. Foucault has an interesting theor
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Alex Lee
In this impressive book, Foucault takes on the basic organizational episteme of our current epoch. He highlights the contemporary modality of our post-modern world by tracing the development of our episteme from the 16th century to the present day.

While this may seem to be a simple tale of historical causation Foucault says explicitly on several occasions that he cannot account for the break between the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century. What he is referring to has severa
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Conor
Jan 15, 2008 Conor rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: grad students in philosophy of science
Shelves: read-non_fiction
I'd be lying if I said that I found reading this book pleasant - it's super dense, even compared to Foucault's other work.

I'd also be lying if I said that it didn't change the way I view thought in the west.


Elizabeth
Oh, Foucault. It is impossible to deny his brilliance, yet at the same time difficult to feel like there's much to take from any one of his books that you haven't already gotten from another. I'm inclined, however, to think this isn't actually Foucault's fault, but is the fault of how he's taught. That is, most students first encounter him in the form of Discipline and Punish or the History of Sexuality, after which they are informed by their more "knowledgeable" professors about how these works ...more
Lance
As with most of Foucault's work, this book oscillates between barely discernible prose, discussion of obscure texts, and moments of clear profundity that will blow your mind. Foucault's overall argument is fairly simple, at least in today's context, where many of Foucault's ideas and methods are often taken as a priori. Basically, shifts in epistemes created a space where "man" appeared as an object of study. The human sciences didn't appear because of new enlightened ideas, but because the disc ...more
Oliver Bateman
This is an essential blueprint for understanding Foucault's approach to "knowledge studies," but I'd caution against reading it until you've got some of his more entertaining and readable books--Madness and Civilization, Discipline and Punish--under your belt. I'm not saying that this isn't fun to read--the discussions of Velásquez's Las Meninas and Cervantes' Don Quixote are brilliant--but there are also long, repetitive stretches where Foucault insists on hammering home his major points about ...more
Kathleen
The Order of Things is one of the less frequently read books of Foucault's. I can understand why, since it is long (~400 pages), and quite challenging to stick with. Foucault became a better writer throughout his career, so his later works are easier to read. However, this one is still rewarding.

A lot of reviewers on here seem to think that the point of this book is that Foucault "doesn't like" the conventional periodization of history. Or, that Foucault wants to dispute where the modern/classic
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Thomas J. Hubschman
I have been reading Foucault—again. Rereading. Unless you are as quick and clever as he is, you don't just "read" Michel Foucault as if he were a mystery novel or an office memo. He frequently requires the kind of concentration you bring to the solution of a geometry theorem or the translation of an ancient text.

I was never very good at either of those activities—mathematics or translation—with a few significant exceptions, significant because what I achieved in each case not only gave me confid
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Kieran
Though a difficult text to manage and ridden with complexity, points of internal anxiety, and even requiring some knowledge derived from elsewhere, Foucault's text is an excavation on the order of symbols and the categories of thought which the Classical era brought, especially to Western Europe. Rather than a direct, localised understanding of human history, Foucault's text serves to abstract and dissolve certain concrete concepts which are established within social convention and structure. By ...more
Chris
This is a dense but immensely rewarding exploration into how different ways of knowing became thinkable at particular moments in history.

Foucualt undertakes an archaeology of sorts in order to identify and compare three distinct epistemological moments (beginning with the Renaissance and similitudes, moving to Classical representation, and finally the "discovery" of Modern man). Each episteme, Foucault argues, creates meaning based upon its fundamental assumptions about where the order of thing
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Melani
This is certainly not an easy read, and I have never read it cover to cover. That being said, it is worth digging into this dense terrain to unearth a few of Foucault's best moments. I shall quote a passage from the preface just to give you an idea:

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought -- our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography - breaking up all the o
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Candy Wood
A publisher’s note at the beginning says that Foucault preferred the English title to the French “Les mots et les choses,” “words and things,” but that one seems more accurate to me. Of course, maybe if I had a clue what he meant by archaeology, the subtitle, “An Archaeology of the Human Sciences,” would make more sense. Certainly the whole book is a breathtakingly and mind-bendingly ambitious project, tracing the development of natural history, the analysis of wealth, and general grammar into b ...more
Andrew
The Order of Things is Foucault at his densest and most baroque. On one hand, I suppose there is value in it as a project as it provides an overarching framework for his more specific inquiries into the prison/the clinic/etc., but it's not a pleasant read-- it's a slog, and one that doesn't really seem to enhance my understanding of Foucault's thought all that much. To a certain degree, it does sharpen his project and gives it a grand-level basis, but in doing so, it reveals some of the inherent ...more
Michael Burnam-fink
The Order of Things is Foucault at his most Foucauldian, a grand tour through the history of orderings, discourses, scientific methods, and ultimately Man Himself from the 16th century through the 19th century. He's at his best when he's making the incommensurable theological commentaries of the 16th century readable and relateable for modern eyes. His discussion of the rise of Classical era human sciences of difference, biology, economics, and philology, is deeply read and insightful. The concl ...more
Wythe Marschall
Oh. My. Gawd. This book purports to explain the shift in thought that happened at the end of the Renaissance. AND IT DOES.

Audaciously archaeological, Foucault kicks language's ass all over the place, starting with a single famous work by Velasquez and diving deeper and deeper into the origins of modern thought, literature, economy, state, and, well, language.

A must-read. (I'm not done. If the last chapters fall off, I'll add to this review. - 9/22/2009)
Daniel
May 29, 2009 Daniel is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
to paraphrase: in the beginning was the word and the word was god. what are the implications of a historical shift in a science dependent upon exegisis etc. verses a science dependent upon tables? one begins to wonder if we've fallen again, from heaven to earth and then again, into the dead space of pure significence. If only through a massive reconfiguraiton of language...whoops...oh golly, look at the time, I got to run to church!
Rachel Seher
Jun 08, 2009 Rachel Seher is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Only read this if you are a political philosophy geek or really want to understand the ways in which institutions (and the people in them) privilege certain kinds of knowledge and suppress others in ways which ultimately further the institutions themselves. It basically offers insight into how "Truth" is constructed and raises the question of whether there is, in fact, a truth with a capital T. I'm reading it for a paper I'm writing.
Lamar
This is the most difficult of al of Foucault's books and is not to be entered lightly. Read this, and study it and learn about the three major changes in Thought and Reason. If you grasp the turgid prose of this book then you really will be rewarded with an ease of reading and understanding once you begin the books on sexuality, power and knowledge.
Bopp!
Daniel
Foucault is brutal and doesn't care if you can keep up with him. Good thing he repeats himself so much or else I wouldn't be able to take in his thoughts. His ideas are worthwhile so I work through.
Kathryn Kopple
A book I could simply not do without. Foucault is nothing less than pure joy both for the depth of his research and his intellectual powers.
Shannon
This book is dense, but Foucault is a beautiful writer. I like the way he plays with language in this book.
Zoltán
Íme, a tételmondatom: ez a könyv jóval több nálam. Hogy aztán ez kinek a hibája, az más kérdés. Szögezzük le, alapszintű filozófiai és ismeretelméleti műveltségem nyilvánvalóan kizárja, hogy a nagy koponyák beszélgetésébe beleugassak, a hiba így talán az én készülékemben leledzik. Ez kissé elkeserít, mert olvastam én már nem egy Foucault-művet, sőt, hivatkoztam is a rájuk, az ókorkutatás erotika-képét taglaló írásomat pedig kifejezetten Foucault-nak a szexualitásról szóló háromkötetes munkájára ...more
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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
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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 Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language The History of Sexuality 2: The Use of Pleasure

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“In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one 'episteme' that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in theory or silently invested in a practice.” 3 likes
“This book first arose out of a passage in [Jorge Luis] Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) suckling pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” 0 likes
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