Sociology Index

Paul Michel Foucault

Among distinguished sociologists, Paul Michel Foucault was well known for his critical studies of social institutions, psychiatry, social anthropology of medicine and the human sciences. Paul Michel Foucault was a French philosopher and a social theorist listed as the most cited scholar in the humanities in 2007 by the ISI Web of Science.

Michel Foucault was associated with structuralism, a theoretical movement in social anthropology. Foucault was particularly influenced by Nietzsche, his "genealogy of knowledge" is an allusion to Nietzsche's "genealogy of morality". His approach has been particularly influential in historical studies of the asylum, prison and clinic.

Foucault has provided a major critique of conventional methodology and assumptions in historiography and sociology. The topics of his published works are knowledge, power and the human body.

In Discipline and Punish (1975), he studied the development of new system of knowledge (penology and criminology), new forms of architecture (pailopticism) and new disciplines of social regulation.

In Madness and Civilization (1961), he traced social reaction to madness from the medieval 'ship of fools' through the asylum to the nineteenth-century 'moral treatment'.

The Birth of the Clinic (1963) and History of Sexuality (1976) are focused on the control of the body through the medium of rational, systematic knowledge. Michel Foucault's work on the history of human sexuality is well known.

Other works include:  The Order of Things (1966) and The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969).

Foucault traced the genealogy of the self through the Christian confessional. He studied how the self is created and subjected to relations of power in terms of 'techniques of the self' (1993).