Foucault's : Madness and Civlization

Topics: Sociology, Michel Foucault, English-language films Pages: 2 (621 words) Published: November 18, 2001
Madness and Civilization

In Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault discuses the history of insanity in Europe from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. He begins his analysis with the treatment of the lepers and criminals concluding with the treatment of the insane. As "madness" became part of everyday life, people of the time were though to be threatened by "madness". This sense of threat resulted in the hiding of the "mad" in early day asylum or "mad house", whose conditions were inhumane. As medicine evolved, and the conditions of the "mad" worsened; There was a distinction made between medicine and reason. Not all that were housed in these "mad houses" were mad. Some indeed were insane, but others were sick and their disease were contagious. However, both were unhealthy and had to be separated from society.

Madness was seen as a plague that had to be concealed from society. In the early years of Foucault's analysis, the mad were kept in "mad houses" or sent away on ships so that society would not be exposed or threatened by these individuals. "Madness" impacted the time to the point were it is evident in the works of Shakespeare and Cervantes. The confinement of the "mad" was an inhumane process. Concealed from society, these individuals were chained to their bed and walls. Some were even exhibited like animals around Europe. Toward the end of the time period which Foucault examines, medicine plays a greater role in the treatment of the "mad". The idea of the asylum was established to continue to separate the insane from the sane, but now in a moral and much more humane manner.

This separation of the members of society because of conditions that they cannot control nor help is wrong. The people who were considered to be "mad" did not want to become mentally unstable, and those who were exposed to leprosy did not want to become lepers. Society must be aware of these conditions, and learn how to live with these members of society. They should...
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