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Foucault For Beginners Paperback – August 21, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lydia Alix Fillingham has taught literary theory, Victorian literature, and writing, at Stanford University, University of Colorado, and Harvard University.  She is currently an independent author, and also an attorney.  She lives with her husband and two cats in Concord, Massachusetts.
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Product Details

  • Series: For Beginners
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: For Beginners (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934389129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1934389126
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Somehow in college you don't get around to studying all the things you want to. After you gradaute you can't seem to pick up a 60 pound volume of someone's intellectual achievement, sit down infront a warm fire and pour over every paragraph- let alone do you find the time to just sit! The answer to those still desiring to learn more than the required number of credits in college is the "for Beginners" series. Condensing a subject's concepts to a user-friendly, entertaining and thought-provoking illustrated book is not easy. But this is as good as it gets! Although Foucault would proably have not approved of the "simplified" commentary of this book, it sure helps everyone else understand his contribution to French intellectualism.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "notpink" on February 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book to help me prepare for a short presentation I had to give on Foucault. Since I had very little time to do reasearch (only 2 weeks), reading through a book such as Discipline and Punish or even the Foucault Reader was out of the question. This was a great introduction to Foucault's general theories, and it included brief synopses of specific works. The writing style is quick-to-the-point and full of light humor, and the comic book style added to this feeling. I especially enjoyed the way this book used certain stories and situations to put some of Foucault's points into "lamens terms". It also tells you which of Foucault's books make the best starting points, for anyone who wants to read "the real thing".
I will agree with some of the other reviewers that some of the explanations were a little TOO brief, but that's to be expected with such a short book. Despite this minor imperfection, I was able to walk away completely understanding the major points of Foucault's study. Not to be counted on as a single source, this book is best used as an introduction, or a companion, to the works of Foucault.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
The current wave of French intellectuals being given to obscure language, these introductory volumes are welcome. I especially enjoyed Fillingham's explication of the way that power and knowledge are inseperable, for Foucault. Having waded through The History of Sexuality in grad school, I now wish I had had this book to give me an overview of the work before I had plunged into it. I have read DERRIDA FOR BEGINNERS, and would have enjoyed hearing from Fillingham how Foucault's thought differs from Derrida's.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Roberson on November 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is by far the best intro to Foucault I've read. Thinking like Foucault use lots of complex language and have really complex ideas, but this book explains those ideas in a very easy-to-understand way. It's short, so you'll be finished quickly, but you will get a really good (introductory) sense of Foucault's entire project. That sense will stick with you pretty well, too, because every page is illustrated. This is an important thinker, and I can't imagine a better introduction. Read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By therosen VINE VOICE on January 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
As a beginner, the book presents Foucault as a documenter - discussing and disecting the history of power and professional relations. He covers knowledge and power, sexuality, prisons, mental health.... The span is enormous, highlighting Foucault's multidisciplinary reputation.

The downside of the book (indeed a limit of the Manga-like series) is it spends too much time on Foucault's role as as a chronicler of data, and leaves the reader on their own for much of his conclusions. An example: the book talks of Foucault's description of the medical clinic and doctor's "Gaze" but the book doesn't share if Foucault thought this was good or bad. Given Foucault's well deserved reputation as a complicated writer, this beginner could use the help.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By rareoopdvds VINE VOICE on April 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Beginners books sets out to simplify Foucaults work and essentially does so. Sometimes almost too simple. I enjoyed the material, as I had no clue what Foucault was about previous to reading, however, I also felt the writing was a little too sparse. The pictures are nice, which makes this series attractive, yet, they filled the page often with splash words and large fonts which sometimes seemed unnecessary or only to fill a page. Regardless, the text is good and informative and reccomended for anyone who is interested in reading Foucault for the first time but does not know where to begin.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L Calhoun on July 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
This gentle introduction to Foucault hits on and clarifies most of the high points of his theories and approach; namely, it is an exploration into the unfair divisions between those who meet and those who deviate from social norms. Foucault's main thesis is that: defining what is normal and abnormal are acts of "cultural construction," rather than revelations of deep epistemological truths. They are thus based on "social knowledge and truth" rather than on "abstract knowledge or epistemological truth." As in the case of war or international politics, social knowledge and truths are the result of "social constructions," very much a product of the power to engage in such constructions. Or put more simply, they are a clear case of the adage: "might makes right." Or said differently, they are as much a product of the power that wields them, as of epistemology.

Since there are no social absolutes, those who wield the most social power (and can get enough people to believe in their constructions), get to define what is socially abnormal. In relief, normal then becomes the complementary or default universal category. For instance, since there is no absolute definition of what it means to be "insane." If enough powerful (spelled "authoritative") people decide that someone is "insane," for all intents and purposes, that person IS "insane." What remains, the residual, is considered the normal and the universal. The truth then is that such a definition is more about the ways in which social power is wielded than about the pursuit of knowledge, per se.

How do some people get the power to create beliefs about us and then get the rest of us to accept their ideas of who we are? The short answer is that knowledge and power are incestuous allies.
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