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The Foucault Reader Paperback – November 12, 1984

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Michel Foucault was one of the most influential thinkers in the contemporary world, someone whose work has affected the teaching of half a dozen disciplines ranging from literary criticism to the history of criminology. But of his many books, not one offers a satisfactory introduction to the entire complex body of his work. The Foucault Reader was commissioned precisely to serve that purpose.
The Reader contains selections from each area of Foucault's work as well as a wealth of previously unpublished writings, including important material written especially for this volume, the preface to the long-awaited second volume of The History of Sexuality, and interviews with Foucault himself, in the course of which he discussed his philosophy at first hand and with unprecedented candor.
This philosophy comprises an astonishing intellectual enterprise: a minute and ongoing investigation of the nature of power in society. Foucault's analyses of this power as it manifests itself in society, schools, hospitals, factories, homes, families, and other forms of organized society are brought together in The Foucault Reader to create an overview of this theme and of the broad social and political vision that underlies it.

From the Back Cover

Michael Foucault was one of the most influential thinkers in the contemporary world, someone whose work has affected the teaching of half a dozen disciplines ranging from literary criticism to the history of criminology. But of his many books, not one offers a satisfactory introduction to the entire complex body of his work. The Foucault Reader was commissioned precisely to serve that purpose.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (November 12, 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394713400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394713403
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Giovanni Mantilla on June 9, 2003
Format: 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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Format: 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.
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By A Customer on September 22, 1999
Format: 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I needed to use portions of this book for references in writing a thesis on ethics. The book itself is confusing if you're not familiar with Foucault, otherwise, it's a great reference. The shipping was on time and the text was new as described.
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Format: 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.
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