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Paul-Michel Foucault (1926 - 1984)  

Foucault was born in 1926, in Poitiers, France. His father was an eminent local surgeon who desired his son to follow in his career footsteps. After graduating from Saint-Stanislas school, he entered the prestigious lycée Henri-IV in Paris. In 1946 he was admitted to the École Normale Supérièure as the fourth highest ranked student. Studying philosophy Foucault emerged as a brilliant young thinker. He received his licence in Philosophy in 1948, in Psychology in 1950, and in 1952 was awarded a diploma in Pyschopathology.
From 1954 to 1958 he taught French at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, then spent a year at the University of Warsaw followed by a year at the University of Hamburg. In 1960 he published his landmark work Madness and Civilization. In this he argued that “madness” as we know it, and the scrupulous and troubled distinctions we make between it and “sanity,” is a hallmark invention of the Age of Reason. The book won him a Doctorat d’état.
In that same year, Foucault met Daniel Defert, a philosophy student ten years his junior. Defert’s political activism would exercise a major influence on Foucault’s development. About their relationship, Foucault said in a 1981 interview: “I have lived for 18 years in a state of passion toward someone. At some moments, this passion has taken the form of love. But in truth, it is a matter of a state of passion between the two of us.”
Foucault’s second major work, The Order of Things, a comparative study of the development of economics, the natural sciences, and linguistics in the 18th and 19th centuries, appeared in 1966. When Daniel Defert went to Tunisia to fulfill his volunteer service requirements, Foucault followed him, and spent 1966-1968 teaching there. The two returned to Paris—Foucault to head up the Philosophy Department at the University of Paris-VIII at Vincennes, Defert to teach sociology—just as the student revolts of May, 1968, unleashed their fury. Foucault was profoundly affected by the unrest. In that year he joined with other intellectuals in forming GIP, the Prison Information Group, an organization that sought to provide prisoners with a way to talk about prison concerns.
His study "Archaeology of Knowledge" appeared in 1969. In 1970 he was elected to the College de France, the country’s most eminent institution of research and learning, as Professor of the History of Systems of Thought. In 1975 he published "Discipline and Punish: The Origin of the Prison", perhaps his most influential book. During the last decade of his life he devoted himself to "The History of Sexuality", a monumental but unfinished project. Volume I: An Introduction appeared to much controversy in 1976, and the second and third volumes—"The Uses of Pleasure and The Care of the Self"—came out shortly before his death in 1984.

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