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Abnormal: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1974-1975 Paperback – August 12, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“These lectures offer important insights into the evolution of the primary focus of Foucault's later work -- the relationship between power and knowledge.” ―Library Journal

“The importance of these lectures is that they are directly connected with two of Foucault's greatest books, Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Because they are clear and to the point, the lectures throw considerable light on the more difficult ideas and passages of their related published works.” ―The Stranger

About the Author

The works of Michel Foucault include Madness and Civilization, The History of Sexuality, and Discipline and Punish. Series editor Arnold I. Davidson teaches at the University of Chicago and is executive editor of the journal Critical Inquiry.

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Product Details

  • Series: Lectures at the Collège de France (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312424051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312424053
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #370,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Steiner VINE VOICE on February 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Foucault's 1974-1975 lecture series on abnormality is a typically brilliant assessment of the historical configuration of three figures, namely, the monster, the criminal/individual to be corrected, and the onanist. This is a remarkable achievement of empirical research; Foucault has filled in the gaps between the brilliant concepts developed through 'The History of Madness,' to 'Discipline and Punish,' and has provided the historical details to his archeological project. This particular series of lectures traces the complex interstices between criminality, abnormality and sexuality and provides a clean analysis of the grid of power relations immanent in these respective domains. Foucault's analysis of the medicalization/psychiatrization of crime is particularly brilliant, and I found his linkage with modern psychiatry to modern racism to be a truly original insight-though I would have liked to see further analysis of the latter connection. There is much room for future theorists in the social sciences and humanities here-Foucault's historical tool box is a rich one, and his attention to fine historical specificities continues to impress.
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If you are familiar with Foucault, then saying that "Abnormal" is in many ways a continuation of "Discipline and Punish" should be enough.

"Abnormal" deals with how social constructs are invented through historical process (in this case, the "monster.") What is crime? What is normalcy? What is beyond the pale? How are these things decided/invented? It's heavy stuff but very interesting (especially if you have any interest in law, criminology, or sociology).

If you have never read Foucault, then don't start with this work. Foucault is a difficult read (although not as bad as Derrida or Habermas) and "Abnormal" is for the student/reader who is already familiar with his philosophy. "Discipline and Punish" is probably a better place to start.

Do read this book, however, whether it be now or later. I don't think it an exaggeration to say that Foucault is one of the most important thinkers since Marx. Foucault is the wellspring of Postmodernism and worth the effort.
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The importance of this College de France course lies in the place it occupies in the development of Foucault's study of sexuality. To understand what this means, a little history is in order.
It is commonly assumed that what we have in English are volumes 1, 2 and 3 of a complete study of the history of western sexuality by Michel Foucault. That each volume contains sustained historical analyses of sexuality in different historical periods, be it the 19th century, the late Hellenic Mediterranean era and the early Roman period. This is a misconception brought on by a confusing publishing scheme. In reality, Michel Foucault wrote volume 1 with an eye towards a 6 volume study of western sexuality, looking at the effects of western sexual discourse in relation to confession (vol. 2), its impact on children (vol. 3), women (vol. 4), and perverts (vol. 5), as well as its connection to demographic and racial discourse (vol. 6). This last volume would have built on his iconic final chapter in volume 1 concerning biopower and the right of death and power over life. However, after the first volume was released, Foucault abandoned the project to re-orient his research and refine his queries around the history of Christian confession and its importance to a history of western discourse on sexuality. His previous conception of it suffered from historical gaps that he felt compromised the original history of sexuality. This re-orientation took him all the way to Antiquity, inspiring his late writings on Greco-Roman ethics, parrhesia and of course, the actual final two volumes of The History of Sexuality that were published under his name, volumes that were supposed to be a part of a new revamped study on sexuality that was left incomplete at his death.
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