Michel Foucault

Paul-Michel Foucault (1926 - 1984)

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Paul-Michel (Michel) Foucault
Born in Poitiers, Vienne, Francemap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Paris, Paris, Francemap
Profile last modified | Created 27 Aug 2017
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Categories: Poitiers, Vienne | Philosophers | Professeurs.

Michel Foucault est Français ou d'origine Française.
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Michel Foucault is notable for being a prominent philosopher, social theorist, and literary critic.

Professeur au Collège de France (1970-1984), Histoire des systèmes de pensée.



Paul Michel Foucault

Early Life

Paul Michel Foucault was born to a wealthy provincial family on 10 rue Arthur Ranc in the centre of Poitiers on October 15, 1926. He was the second of three children. He was the son of Paul André Foucault, a doctor, who came from a long line of doctors. His mother Anne Marie Radegonde Malaper also came from a long line of physicians. Education was extremely important in the Foucault home. Paul Michel entered Lycée Henri school proper in 1936. After the invasion by Germany and the establishment of the Vichy government, Foucault’s educational ability fell, his family removed him from the Lycée and enrolled him at the Collège Saint-Stanislas. After the insistence of his mother that philosophy should be taught in Paul Michel’s school, she hired a tutor Louis Girard to come to the home and teach Paul-Michel philosophy. Foucualt graduated in June 1943. As the war neared the end, the family were forced to leave their home at 10 rue Arthur Ranc since it was close to the railway station, a potential bombing target. Foucault moved to Paris in 1946 to prepare for entrance exams to the Ecole Normale Superiure (ENS) at the Lycée Henri-IV. When Foucault sat for his entrance exams for the second time, he ranked fourth in the country. [1] In the autumn of 1946, Foucault entered the ENS. Foucault became depressed during his time at ENS, drinking heavily. His depression is widely accepted and attributed to his difficulty in coming to terms with his homosexuality. The society of post-war Paris was not friendly to gay men. It was well known police kept unofficial files on gay men. Any homosexual rendez-vous’ were kept in secret. Foucault was eventually persuaded to consult a psychiatrist at Sainte-Anne hospital. At the consent of the ENS’s doctor, Foucault spent his third and final year at the sanatorium. Despite his struggles with mental health, Foucault excelled academically. He took a degree in philosophy in 1948 and a degree in psychology the following year. [1]

Professional Life

In 1951, Foucault was awarded a scholarship to the Fondation Thiers, a research foundation. He left before the end of his first year. Foucault was still fascinated by psychology and psychiatry and was awarded a diploma in psychopathology in the summer of 1952 from the Institut de Psychologie. After leaving the Fondation Thiers, Foucault shared an apartment in the rue Monge with his brother. Foucault began teaching at the northern city of Lille. In 1954 he received an invitation to go to the University of Uppsala in Sweden to be a French assistant and the director of the Maison de France culture centre. In retrospective interviews, Michel explained his decision to leave Paris was inspired by a search for greater freedom. Foucalt left Sweden in 1958. He gained a similar post in Warsaw next at the Centre for French Civilization. During his time there he began a relationship with a young man who turned out to be an informer. Foucault was reported and advised to leave Warsaw as soon as possible. The incident did not affect him professionally and he took a new position in Hamburg as the director of the Institut Français. To return to France, Foucault submitted Histoire de la folie as a doctoral thesis and a complementary thesis of a commentary on the translation of Kant’s Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View. He eventually found a publisher of the thesis in Civilisations d’hier et d’aujourd’hui series. The publishing of the thesis allowed Foucault an appointment at University of Clermont-Ferrand in October 1960 teaching psychology. In May 1961, Foucault defended his thesis and was awarded the degree of doctorat ès letters, as well as a bronze medal awarded by the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique. [1]

In September 1666, Foucault decided to take up a post as Professor Philosophy at the University of Tunis in the former French protectorate of Tunisia. He eventually moved to Sidi Bou Said, a village overlooking the sea. However, Tunis was not peaceful, the Arab-Israeli Six Day War broke out in 1967. Foucault began to sympathize with his anti-government students which had not gone unnoticed. Foucault took up a philosophy position at Collège de France in 1970. In February the following year, Foucault formed the Groupe d’Information sur les Prisons (GIP). This was an organization to determine the conditions of French prisons and their prisoners and advocate for better prisoner conditions. In 1973, the GIP dissolved to make way for a Prisoners’ Action Committee. Foucault continued in his role as a cultural attaché travelling to the United States and Japan. Throughout the 1970s, Foucault had combined academic work with hectic political activity. Increasingly, he wrote for newspapers and magazines rather than specialist journals. He became more involved in journalism. He published seven articles to the Corriere about the conflict in Iran. [1]

Michel Foucault.


Foucault’s first writings were collaborations with other authors. His doctoral thesis was a previously published work of histoire de la folie, a work described as the history of the slow transition from the old notion of “folly” to the modern concept of “mental illness”. Between 1961 and 1966 he published a series of articles and reviews in literary journals. Foucault published Raymond Roussel, the only book Foucault devoted to a literary topic in May 1963. That year he also published Naissance de la Clinique that deals with the emergence of modern medicine. He also joined the editorial committee of the intellectual and literary journal Critique. Foucault published Les Mots et les choses in April 1966, the book that established Foucault as one of France’s major intellectuals. Les Mots et les Choses came to be regarded as one of the “bibles” of structuralism. It was during these years, that became known outside of France as the establishment of “French Theory”. Foucault’s main contribution to the philosophy of concepts is his L’Archéologie du savoir, published in 1969 basically a methodological supplement to Les Mots…. Foucault published Surveiller et punir in 1975. It was a history of the transition from regime of power that operated in publish to one that functions in silence hidden behind institutions. In 1976, Le Monde announced the publication of six volumes by Foucault described as a multi-volume “history of sexuality” Histoire de la sexualité: la volonté de savoir. In 1980, Foucault wrote Le Désordre des familles based on transcripts of letters from prisoners of Bastille, incarcerated indefinitely due to debauchery or unacceptable relationships. [1]

Personal Life

Foucault had a relationship with Jean Barraqué, a musician and composer, who he met in the summer of 1952. The had a tumultuous relationship which ended during Foucault’s time in Sweden. At the end of 1960, Foucault met Daniel Defert who had just entered Ecole Normale de Saint-Cloud. The two men entered a passionate relationship and before long, decided to spend the rest of their lives together. In July 1978, Foucault was struck by a car crossing the rue de Vaugriard. He spent over a week in the hospital but survived. [1]


In the summer of 1982, Foucault began to suffer from persistent sinusitis and complained of feeling tired. By March of 1984, he was too weak to continue lecturing. On June 3, 1984 he collapsed at home and was immediately hospitalized in a private clinic. Michel Foucault died on June 25, 1984. He had been suffering from septicaemia, which resulted in serious neurological complications that spread to his brain. However, this was compounded by HIV/AIDS which at the time was not known enough to be diagnosed. It was announced that Foucault’s funeral was to be strictly private. On Friday, June 29th a crowd gathered in the courtyard outside the Salpetrière’s mortuary. Foucault was buried in his hometown of Vendeuvre-du-Poitou. [1][2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Macey, David. The Lives of Michel Foucault: A Biography. Vintage Books, 1995.
  2. Wikipedia Michel Foucault

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