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Archaeology of Knowledge (Routledge Classics) Hardcover – August 9, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0415287524 ISBN-10: 0415287529 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Routledge Classics
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (August 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415287529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415287524
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,858,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Next to Sartre's Search for a Method and in direct opposition to it, Foucault's work is the most noteworthy effort at a theory of history in the last 50 years.
Library Journal

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

Customer Reviews

This difficult work is absolutely essential for understanding his central concept of 'discourse'.
Dave P
He does not mention how and why an episteme loses its characteristic discontinuity to become a discursive formation with a new discontinuity.
Martin Asiner
An author who writes an incomprehensible book that somehow gets to be taken very seriously is not dead, but very much in control.
not a natural

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Giovanni Mantilla on October 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Archaeology Of Knowledge" finds Foucault at his barest, trying to build up his own theory. Like others have said, it is fascinating to see how much he tries to encompass and how extremely difficult his own enterprise is. Foucault spends many pages trying to explain to us what he means by "discoursive formation", "object formation", "formation of concepts", etc., and the place where his own theory stands vis-à-vis a so-called "history of ideas". You can learn lots from this book, because, like myself, sometimes you get lost in Foucault's magistral writing, his fabulous way of weaving history and thus cannot clearly follow his own particular method of research. If you want to see some of his (earlier, almost stricly discourse-oriented) key concepts clarified, reading this book will prove very fruitful. As always, you're left with a lot of questions and with a distinctive feeling of "now what?". But then again, that's what's so utterly beautiful and engaging about Foucault... he forces you to think for yourself and provides you of the right tools to do it.
I read the spanish translation of this book so I can't comment on the english one, but the contents of this book are priceless.
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105 of 141 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Let's be childish enough to use coarse categories: "Discipline&Punish" is Foucault's most beautiful book. "The Order of Things" is the most brilliant (that's why it made him a star). Let's also say "The History of Sexuality" is his most exciting book. Then "The Archaeology of Knowledge" is the most fascinating: it is Foucault's attempt to write a theory of what he is doing. And it is a brilliant failure: this is the only time that we see Foucault, the master of brilliant formulation, completely naked. It is endearing to watch how he is trying to write a piece of philosophical theory, while all his other books demonstrate how unnecessary such theory is.
This is no light reading and the English translation is barely comprehensible. I bet that there is a serious mistranslation on any given page. With good translations at hand, some notorious readers (Foucault lovers and Foucault enemies alike) might actually have understood what the words "discourse" and "dispositif" mean. Countless articles and books would not have been written. That's why a good German translation would have been even more desirable (the one in print is as miserable as the English one, same bet)...
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Dave P on January 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
Do not be fooled by those who dismiss this as a mere curiousity in Foucault's oeuvre. This difficult work is absolutely essential for understanding his central concept of 'discourse'. All of his works are better understood after a careful reading of this difficult work; this is true even for the later 'geneaological' works.
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32 of 47 people found the following review helpful By not a natural on June 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
A friend who found Foucault's The Order of Things useful and interesting recommended that I give the Archaeology of Knowledge a try. I had enjoyed his first book, Madness and Civilization, so I took up the challenge.

I spent an extremely frustrating month trying to make sense of The Archaeology and then gave up. From the first page on Foucault uses totally unfamiliar concepts in a vocabulary loaded with neologisms which he neither defines nor references. Since the concepts are used in extraordinarily complex locutions, invariably along with other idiosyncratically opaque terminology, it seems impossible to discern their meaning from the context in which they occur.

I have since been advised that The Archaeology of Knowledge is much more approachable for one who has read everything else that Foucault has written, and who has also mastered Derrida and Kristeva. That may be true, but it's not a risk I'm willing to take. Even if I did eventually manage to decipher the code used in producing The Archaeology, I doubt that the intellectual payoff would be substantial. Foucault is the kind of author who delights in keeping people guessing, making sure that no one can ever be certain as to his meaning. It all sounds very profound, but what does it mean? When all is said and done, Foucault wants to keep us off balance, uncertain, but somehow deeply impressed, as in "Perhaps this is what Foucault means by discursive formation! Ah ha!" Or, "Oh, I see: dispersion refers to the post-structuralist notion that any signifier is inevitably modified by an infinitely large number of other signifiers, so its meaning is never absolute... I think ..." But we're never sure.

I have since read interviews with Foucault written when he was at his most influential.
Read more ›
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Sutton on March 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
First off, for those of you that have to read this book for a class-as I did, it's on Sparknotes. Not that Sparknotes will replace reading but it definitely helps explain what the book is saying (the class I had to read this for is a graduate level English class called "Rhetoric and Writing in Professional Communities" so my opinions may be slightly tainted by the fact that this reading has nothing to do with the class description and the fact that the professor offered no help in deciphering it).

That being said, Foucault has a tendency to express simple ideas in the most complicated manner possible. For example (I would typically say "spoiler alert" here but it's not like this is a novel) Foucault argues that grammar is a man made idea following man made rules. Perfectly simple, and not exactly revolutionary, idea. To further this point, Foucault breaks grammar rules which ultimately makes it difficult to understand the point he is trying to get across. So, he used grammar to make his point but his point was lost within the grammar.

In my opinion, Foucault's ideas are not revolutionary and not worth the hassle of trying to decipher his writing.
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More About the Author

One of the leading intellectuals of the twentieth century and the most prominent thinker in post-war France, Foucault's work influenced disciplines as diverse as history, sociology, philosophy, sociology and literary criticism.

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a French historian and philosopher associated with the structuralist and poststructuralist movements. He is often considered the most influential social theorist of the second half of the twentieth century, not only in philosophy but in a wide range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Among his most notable books are Madness and Civilization, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality.

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