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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contains some key selections...
As Mr. Rabinow himself states, any selection of Foucault's wide range of works and écrits might seem random at best, pointless at worst. I believe, however, that this compilation includes some of Foucault's most important essays (particularly "What Is Enlightenment?" and "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History") and some VERY edited selections from his most famous oeuvres,...
Published on June 9, 2003 by Giovanni Mantilla

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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction
Having been introduced to Foucault the hard way, i.e. reading The Order of Things as an undergraduate nearly twenty years ago, the reader was simply a synopsis of his work. Still, for someone who has never read his work or has had difficulty understanding him, this book serves as a good introdcution. I do recommend it only for beginners; it's not something for those...
Published on September 22, 1999


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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Contains some key selections..., June 9, 2003
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This review is from: The Foucault Reader (Paperback)
As Mr. Rabinow himself states, any selection of Foucault's wide range of works and écrits might seem random at best, pointless at worst. I believe, however, that this compilation includes some of Foucault's most important essays (particularly "What Is Enlightenment?" and "Nietzsche, Genealogy, History") and some VERY edited selections from his most famous oeuvres, especially "Discipline and Punish". If you want a very general overview of Foucault's theories, get this... some information contained here in priceless. If you are interested in reading his books... this certainly won't do. I think Mr Rabinow justly skips Foucault's initial "phase" (archeology) BUT unjustly overlooks most of Foucault's final phase (technologies & hermeneutics of the self). One of Foucault's most important essays is missing here, "The Subject & The Power", in which he pieces together his general reflexions on well, the subject and the power. I guess the reason for not including that article is because it is already featured as an extra "bonus" in Rabinow's own "Beyond Hermeneutics & Structuralism".
The introductory pages written by Paul Rabinow are ALSO excellent, by the way.
All in all, a good compilation, if only just a starting point.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction, September 22, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Foucault Reader (Paperback)
Having been introduced to Foucault the hard way, i.e. reading The Order of Things as an undergraduate nearly twenty years ago, the reader was simply a synopsis of his work. Still, for someone who has never read his work or has had difficulty understanding him, this book serves as a good introdcution. I do recommend it only for beginners; it's not something for those of us more familiar with his work.
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37 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Goes down easy, December 17, 2001
This review is from: The Foucault Reader (Paperback)
This volume includes some classic Foucault essays, like the segment from Birth of the Asylum in which Foucault explains how the asylum sets up controls by means of perpetual observation and perpetual judgement. By continually observing and judging people, the impetus for conformity is laid to rest, becomes less visible, less obvious and subsequently, according to Foucault, all the more powerful because of its restrained state. This is a similar theme in the segment Panopticism where Foucault shows a transition in prison systems from physical manipulation to implicit manipulation. This new form of control is implemented through a physical construction that creates the illusion of continual surveillance. This surveillance creates the impetus for self-control. It ties in rather tightly with earlier discussions by Elias and Bordeau on etiquette. Etiquette is enforced and reinforced by the social force of shame and embarrassment. People control themselves out of a desire not to be looked down upon - to control their own public reputations. Panopticism works in a similar way - by continual observation or the illusion of continual observation, people are expected to continually discipline themselves so as to avoid being disciplined by an external source.
This discussion of self-disciplining the self is an interesting paradigm to work with in the electronic media. TV personnel have certain self-imposed expectations - far beyond state censorship and far more powerful, the desire to be respected by one's peers and superiors, controls the content of the media. Similarly, chatters on the Net are divided on a range along this self-imposed discipline from those who deliberately say the most absurd things just because they are outside the Panopticon to those who continue to hold real whole expectations of themselves in the virtual world. Between these two is a whole range of behaviors from constructing wildly inaccurate selves for Net view to "white lies" about age, weight, hair color, etc. The Net is interesting precisely because it falls outside the daily life which is observed and surveyed, i.e. similar in structure to a social Panopticon and TV news is interesting because it is a much more highly judged arena to step into. Foucault's writing provides more points from which to view the same sociological problem, allowing a researcher to more ably unpack issues embedded in the study.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Overview, February 5, 1999
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Foucault Reader (Paperback)
If you're wondering about Foucault, this is a great book to pick up. Not all of the concepts make sense immediately, as it is a reader and Foucault is complicated, but it's still worth a look. Pick out some favorite chapters and then read further.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Renaissance Man of the Social Sciences, November 18, 2013
This review is from: The Foucault Reader (Paperback)
The easiest way to summarize Foucault's full body of work as it is reflected here is to say that he deconstructed, analyzed, and then reconstructed the truism: "Knowledge is power." Among many other things, he showed us that without an absolute concept of truth, it is power and knowledge that define what is true in our reality. This is so because truth and knowledge simply become whatever the most powerful groups tell us they are. In which case, logic and common sense also tell us that the truism: "knowledge is power" and "might makes right," are interchangeable.

It matters little whether the power imposed upon us is physical or mental. The only fact that really matters is that the ultimate reality is that which small powerful groups define for us, and then impose upon us. How we are to see ourselves, our surroundings, and how we are to understand what is meant by truth and knowledge is what the most powerful groups lay down as our reality. In the process, these "self-appointed constructors of truth and knowledge" have arrogated unto themselves perhaps the most important power of all: the power to create beliefs that not only affect our own self-definitions, but that also defines meaning in our humanity. At the same time (to the extent one exists at all), they decide for us the difference between "functional" or "operational" and "abstract truth."

Since the social sciences define human beings at the same time that they describe them, we actually come into existence through language, and thus it is impossible to think about our humanity outside the rules of language. Indeed it is language, operating exclusively through its key instrumentalities "discourse" and "categorization," that behavioral control over people is affected. "Discourse" in its broadest sense is any written or spoken communication, especially the discourses of technical specialists who work together to establish their field and its dominant ideas through communication. It is these technical discourses that have ever-increasing power over people, just as they profoundly effect the structure of society. Categorization, on the other hand, provides the pigeonholes into which people may be sorted so that "place" and a "pecking order" can then be established and used to define their "position" within the societal hierarchy.

Foucault saw two critical categories doing most of the heavy-lifting in the regulation of societal behavior. They are the categories of "normal" (the We) and "abnormal" (the they, or Sartre's other). But what his extensive clinical and historical studies revealed is that the exclusion of abnormal people from society does not make them unimportant. And the reason it does not is because it is only through the definition of "abnormality" that we are able to define what is "norma.l"

Thus, and this is the critical point: it is the "normal" that needs the "abnormal" in order to define itself? And, although abnormality is excluded, jailed and hidden from public view, the main way society maintains control and power over the abnormal people is by obsessively studying them, and then by "distancing" themselves from what has already been self-defined by default as "abnormal."

Additionally, Foucault's studies revealed that categories like "normal" and "abnormal;" "civilization" and "madness," changed and took on new meanings with discontinuities in history. Regarding "madness" for instance, Foucault began with the idea that madness had to do with excluding certain people from society, by locking them up for being unreasonable.

However, in the Middle Ages, people were locked up not for being unreasonable, but because they had a contagious disease like leprosy. But by the 14th Century when leprosy had disappeared, the leprosy colonies were not closed but were re-opened and re-used to detain and jail the outcast. Moreover, by now what was defined as an outcast kept changing with the historical epochs too. So that eventually, the category of abnormal progressed until it had morphed into the catch-all, "criminal:" that is to say, the mad, the insane, epileptics, homosexuals and anyone "out of a job" -- or the poor.

It is inescapable not to conclude that morality was the key separating variable. And thus, the abnormal required not just being studied, and being confined, but also being surveilled, and being taught morals and techniques of self-improvement. Until the "criminal abnormal" seamlessly learned to become the "normal," they were to continue to be surveilled, coached, and rehabilitated.

The societal hierarchy was uprighted once moral standards of the powerful had become the default morality of the culture. All of the dangers to normality thus emanated from the "out-of-work" lower classes, whom the "working normal" continually sat in judgement of the poor, the out-of-work, the mad and the generally abnormal, that is to say, the societally defined criminals. After repetitive judgments and punishments, and the erection of laws for containing them, these subordinate groups quickly learned to operate on auto-pilot and became their own worse critics. Once "the Other" had internalized society's expectations of them, without regard to their own individuality, the cycle of control through power and knowledge, was complete. QED. Five stars.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to Foucault - makes you want to read more, January 25, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Foucault Reader (Paperback)
This book offers a good overview of Foucaults writings, making the reader (at least me) wanting to dig deeper into several of the subjects Foucault addressed. A shortcoming is that, considering the wealth of Foucault's ouevre, some of the chapters are too condensed to be used as more than an "intellectual appetizer". I assume that for the reader who is not familiar with Foucault at all, some other book like "Foucault for Beginners" might be more useful for getting an overview. Starting from there one might want to read more anyway.
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17 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good beginning, September 22, 1999
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This review is from: The Foucault Reader (Paperback)
This is a good introductory book, not so good if you have (like myself) read a great deal of Foucault and have at least a solid grounding in some of his basic concepts.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Resource, June 21, 2012
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This is a great complement to Foucault's work. I recommend it as a supplement for sources of criticism and support of Foucault's work. It does not stand alone in describing Foucault's purpose but again a good supplement to help navigate his works.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, March 8, 2013
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Great book. Came on time and in good condition. If you like existentialism, you will love this book. Except the panopticism is not a good version AT ALL.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome, February 3, 2014
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Brenda Agnew (San Jacinto CA) - See all my reviews
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was so happy to see this come in the mail it was exactly what i needed for class i am so greatful
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The Foucault Reader
The Foucault Reader by Michel Foucault (Paperback - November 12, 1984)
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