Student's Guide to Michel Foucault/Contexts

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How is Foucault's thought categorized within the context of philosophy? What role has his work played in other disciplines, such as literature? Where do his ideas fit into the broader history of the 20th century, and who were his influences? Admittedly, it can be difficult to classify Foucault's work. Foucault himself resisted labelling; for instance, he took issue with being called a "structuralist," a "post-structuralist" or a "post-modernist," despite the widespread use of these descriptions (and others) for him and his work at various points in his life. Nonetheless, it can be very helpful for the student of Foucault to impose some labels on his ideas if we are to sort them and make sense of them.

Foucault, Philosophy, and Intellectual History[edit | edit source]

Foucault's work can be slotted within the realm of philosophy, although some (such as Gary Gutting) have described him as a historian. Specifically, Foucault has focused on questions of epistemology (the study of knowledge) and issues related to the individual subject and his or her place in the disciplinary workings of society.

Influences[edit | edit source]

It can be very difficult, time-consuming, and terribly subjective to determine the extent to which specific individuals and their work were a significant influence on Michel Foucault's thought. Each person may have worked with, met with, or was read by (or cited by) Foucault, but these are all poor indicators of the prominence he or she may have enjoyed in Foucault's thinking. Therefore, this page provides a simple and consise (and thus highly accessible) list of the ideas of influential thinkers, artists, and personalities that were taken under Foucault's wing at various stages of his life. Each person is listed roughly in chronological order based on when his/her ideas were encountered by Foucault.

  • Jean Hippolyte
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty
  • Martin Heidegger
  • Louis Althusser
  • Gaston Bachelard
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Georges Canguilhem
  • Raymond Roussel
  • Jacques Derrida
  • Georges Dumézil
  • Roland Barthes
  • Rene Magritte
  • Jean Baudrillard
  • Jürgen Habermas