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The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences [Paperback]

Michel Foucault
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 29, 1994 0679753354 978-0679753353 Reissue
When one defines "order" as a sorting of priorities, it becomes beautifully clear as to what Foucault is doing here. With virtuoso showmanship, he weaves an intensely complex history of thought. He dips into literature, art, economics and even biology in The Order of Things, possibly one of the most significant, yet most overlooked, works of the twentieth century. Eclipsed by his later work on power and discourse, nonetheless it was The Order of Things that established Foucault's reputation as an intellectual giant. Pirouetting around the outer edge of language, Foucault unsettles the surface of literary writing. In describing the limitations of our usual taxonomies, he opens the door onto a whole new system of thought, one ripe with what he calls "exotic charm". Intellectual pyrotechnics from the master of critical thinking, this book is crucial reading for those who wish to gain insight into that odd beast called Postmodernism, and a must for any fan of Foucault.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences + Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison + The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Michel Foucault (1926-84). Celebrated French thinker and activist who challenged people's assumptions about care of the mentally ill, gay rights, prisons, the police and welfare. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (March 29, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679753354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679753353
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.9 x 5.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
135 of 139 people found the following review helpful
This is my favorite book by Foucault. The book reads well, as a series of connected stories.
You will need to bring an interest in the history of economic thought, the history of linguistic thought, the history of thinking about art, the history of biological thought, and other such histories, though you don't need a college level background in each to be able to get full value from reading the book. He ranges both deep and wide in all these histories, and presents them in a completely new way - you'll feel as if your feet have been yanked from underneath you.
Imagine the normal way a history of a single science is presented: you see the progression of ideas, there is the old idea, the growing realisation of a problem inherent in the old idea, a key person grows up and comes up with a new idea, and we see how the new idea came about and how it gained support and took hold and how the old idea lost out, quickly or after a protracted struggle. This is such a familiar framework that we completely take it for granted. Maybe we shouldn't, says Foucault.
He claims to have found something remarkable when looking at all these different histories of thought side by side. He says major changes in the very way that economics was conceived had a counterpart in major changes in the way linguistics was conceived and biology and so on, in a very narrow span of years. This leads him to distinguish three eras such that within each era the thinking in economics, biology, linguistics, etc was more similar to each other than e.g. the thinking in economics from one era to the next. Each of these eras, which he calls "epistemes", comes to a fairly sudden end all across Europe.
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161 of 195 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seminal work of French Structuralism June 14, 2001
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As much as Foucault would have hated the label, this book is one of the core texts that anchor the French Structuralist school of thought. So, what does that mean exactly? Well, it means that style is as important, if not more so, than substance. So let me begin with style.

The style of the book is what you're likely to notice most immediately. The Structuralists are famous for subordinating lucidity and logical rigor for what is sometimes called "vast erudition." Vast erudition is that set of decidedly French stylistic elements that include such frequently beautiful techniques as intentional obscurity of meaning; undisciplined, looping, rambling metaphors which go on for pages and pages; flowery, arcane rhetoric; and more neologisms than the French Academy could possibly record. In short, Foucault uses 100 words to say what he could have said in 10, but it is great fun to read despite its difficulty. Trust me, if you didn't get it, probably he didn't intend for you to. And what critics like to hail as erudition is sometimes nothing more than purposeful obscurity and literary name dropping. Daniel Boorstin is as erudite as any French Structuralist, but he is infinitely more lucid.

Now, there's the substance. Foucault's essential thesis is that science is a front for an unconscious network of order relating ALL branches of human knowledge. The thesis is, if anything, an epistemological statement. Typical of modern French scholarship in general, this book cuts a wide interdisciplinary swath through arts and sciences to show how seemingly unrelated fields of human knowledge--biology, economics and language, for example--are really empirical manifestations of the same human process.
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79 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, I like this book very much... January 2, 2000
By "tksc"
Perhaps this is the most significant (and consequently most overlooked) philosophical work of the twentieth century. While upon its initial release The Order of Things launched Foucault's international career, it has been largely ignored in favor of Foucault's analysis of power, discourse, and subjectivity. But, above all, Foucault was a philosopher of history and this book stands as the unacknowledged center of his oeuvre. It is a book of immense erudition, surprises, mystery, and wonderment. And contrary to Arendt's contention that philosophers do not laugh, this book begins with a laughter and sustains the mirth throughout. This is the proper sequel to Nietzsche's 'The Gay Science.' But this time, it really aims for science.
Confession: even in my young age, I have read this book 8 times. I hope to read it many more times. With each reading the book opens up new and unexplored territories. Riddles reveal themselves as words of a sage. The sheer beauty and economy of the writing moves me.
Perhaps in this book, that is, hidden in this book, the other Foucault emerges here and there. The other Foucault who is not reducible as the theoretician of power, pomo revelry, or the modern heretic but the bold thinker of history who always has one foot in tradition and the other foot reaching in the darkness for a new ground.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Foucault's "Order:" An Oxymoron May 7, 2011
The Order of Things (1966) contains many of Michel Foucault's favorite themes. First, western civilization had always taken for granted that human beings directed their own destiny as rational creatures who possessed free will and autonomy of thought. Foucault thought that this so-called free will was dangerous nonsense and no more than a shared illusion. He now urged mankind to abandon such a fantasy of self-directed free will and to accept that the source of humanity's decision making lay in external forces that collectively pushed all beings into predetermined directions. Second, one of those shared illusions was the seemingly self-evident concept that an ongoing world external to human senses existed as things solidly grounded in reality. Things exist regardless of how or even whether we acknowledge them. Foucault claimed that since man's view of reality is contingent on how they see reality, it followed, then, that the manner in which language describes that reality led him to conclude that language does not reflect reality so much as language creates it. Third, since reality is no more than a nuanced and ephemeral reflection of language, then what we call historical reality has no more ongoing movement in time than cotton candy. It is an extended elaboration of this third shared illusion that constitutes the bulk of The Order of Things.

The "Order" of the title refers to how mankind attempts to ascertain what sense of continuity exists between one historical age and another. He uses the phrase "Archeology" (from the subtitle) to suggest metaphorically that Foucault, as the historical archeologist, uncovers the temporal structuring of historical eras.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Order of Things is an exemplary study of Michel Foucault and his historical method, which he calls the archeology of thought—a method that has released amazing insight into... Read more
Published 2 days ago by John C. Woodcock
2.0 out of 5 stars Order?
The order of things is the second book that I read by this late iconoclastic writer. I greatly enjoyed his stimulating and thought provoking "Discipline and Punish" (DP),... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Quinton Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars Foucault is awsome
I wish I'd discovered him earlier. His viewpoint makes so much sense. An interesting and complex man who left us with a legacy of tools for contemplation.
Published 5 months ago by jilyan
4.0 out of 5 stars Important opening Frey
This is an early Foucault that lays out his agenda. Important reading, but I wonder if it is all in his other books.
Published 5 months ago by MongolMaid
3.0 out of 5 stars A poor translation of what should have been a great analysis
The underlying premise of the book is certainly well argued; not just from the author's perspective but also through a large number of footnoted supporting documents ranging from... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Garrett Mccutcheon
5.0 out of 5 stars anything by Foucault
Start here for an intro to Foucault's archeological method and then turn to his genealogies: begin with Discipline and Punish, cut to History of Sexuality and then see his... Read more
Published 12 months ago by katherine cummings
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely profound
I am not at all qualified to comment on this book. Many highly intelligent and educated people have written books on this book. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Petros K. Tsantoulis
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth the Struggle!
This is a dense but immensely rewarding exploration into how different ways of knowing became thinkable at particular moments in history. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Ceek
4.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy by Demonstration: Foucault's Investigation of Science and...
I am not new to Foucault. I had previously read various books, essays, and lectures of his various historical and philosophical studies, and have gained a decent understanding of... Read more
Published on May 12, 2012 by Donald A. Planey
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, awkward translation
I love this book, even when I hate it. Foucault's archaeological method really blows a hole in the die-hard myth of historical "progress" by focusing on the epistemological bases... Read more
Published on August 13, 2011 by James G. Carroll
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