Nederlanse versie

Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault was born in 1926 in Poitiers, France. Foucault studied philosophy and psychology and took his PH.D on a text entitled Folie et Déraison. Histoire de la folie à l'age classique (1961). In the books that followed he analyses the discursive structures of the medical gaze and human sciences. In 1970 he became professor at the prestigious Collège de France. More and more he focuses on the body. His work becomes more political and he develops a thesis on disciplining powerrelations in Surveiller et punir (1975). Only than Foucault publicly aknowledges his homosexuality and starts to analyse the discursive disciplining of it in his first part of Histoire de la sexualité. La volonté du savoir (1976). In the following parts Foucault returns to the roots of the western discours on sexuality in western culture.: the classical Greec and hellenistic culture. He dies in 1984 of AIDS.

During the sixties Michel Foucault startles the rightminded part of the world by stating in his well wrought study Les mots et les choses. Une archeologie des sch\iences humaines (1966) that “man is about to disappear”. In this text he unmasks the illusion of modernity: autonomy and rationality are by no means features of the human essence. `Man' the modern, rationalistic subject who after the death of God runs his own life and is in charge of his own future is only one specific mode of consistent speaking and writing about humans of flesh and blood. This coherent mode of speaking and writing Foucault typifies as `discours'. It is a web of scientific theories, political manifests and moral prescriptions that sustain and guide a culture. As knowledge or `savoir' they however are only effective within institutions and practices: Knowledge is effective as power. This modern process of knowledgepower Foucault calls `discipline'. He develops a completely new orientation on power relations, that are more than repressive. The normalisation that is effectuated by discipline, does not solely work in a repressive sense as marxism states. The disciplining power also produces positive modi: coherent identities. A discourse enables individuals to maintain a communal attitude towards the world, their fellow human beings and their inner selves. However, in a critical sense this implies that the modern, autonomous subject is rather an effect and not cause and foundation of the knowledge gained within human or social sciences (savoir). It is generated within this knowledge (savoir) as a web of microphysical power relations (pouvoir). In Les mots et les choses he even digs deeper into our common cultural grounds: as an archeologist of knowledge he opens our sight for other `essences' that were produced by earlier discourses within our own culture. Behind every mask another mask appears. And precisely in this succession of masks the uncanny element of Foucault's philosophy can be traced: there is no longer an ultimate truth. In spite of his radical critique on modern `man' he does not reveal the `final' truth on the human condition. If Foucault's insights contain a `truth', it is the paradox that every truth is produced within practices of truth. Truth can not be discovered, it has to be invented. This moreover can only be acknowledged retrospectively. But precisely as a result of this insight `postmodern' individuals regain a restricted autonomy: together with others they have the possibility to practice truths, as long as they realise that these are principally provisional.