Michel Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge

Better Essays
Topics: Michel Foucault
Michel Foucault 's Archaeology of Knowledge
While Michel Foucault 's work has always been about the nature of power in society, his more particular concern has been with power 's relationship to the discursive formations in society that make knowledge possible. Power here is not the conventional power of institutions and leaders, but the "capillary" modes of power that controls individuals and their knowledge, the mechanisms by which power "reaches into the very grain of individuals, touches their bodies and inserts itself into their actions and attitudes, their discourses, learning processes and everyday lives."1 It is in discourse, according to Foucault, that power is both most manifest and hardest to identify.
Discourse is where everything that relates to power and knowledge, including his own work, is buried.2 Thus, in his first three "historical" works, Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, and The Order of Things,3 Foucault examines the discourses surrounding the "development" of psychiatry, medicine, and the human sciences, respectively.
I use the words "historical" and "development" guardedly in relation to Foucault 's oeuvre because his approach is not historical in the traditional sense of the word - tracing the development and progressive refinement of ideas in a particular field. Rather, he tells us, his method focuses on discontinuities in the history of thought:
Beneath the great continuities of thought... one is now trying to detect the incidence of interruptions. Interruptions whose status and nature vary considerably... they suspend the continuous accumulation of knowledge, interrupt its slow development, and force it to enter a new time... they direct historical analysis away from the search for silent beginnings, and the never-ending tracing-back to the original precursors, towards the search for a new type of rationality and its various affects... ; they show that the history of a concept is not wholly and



Bibliography: Sheridan Smith. London: Tavostock, 1972. York: Pantheon Books, 1973 Foucault, Michel New York: Vintage Books. 1965. Pantheon Books, 1980.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Powerful Essays

    Who Possesses Agency? Michel Foucault’s work in which he titled Panopticism, he explains his views on power; how it is operated, obtained and sustained. He based the word panopticism on Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon - an architectural design of a building that enables the one who possesses agency to see each cell that a subject of power is incarcerated to. Foucault writes that “Visibility is a trap” (Foucault, 286) because the tower is used to “induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent…

    • 1541 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Samantha Brown Benjamin Ondieki English 102 27-Sept-08 A Modern Prison In the beginning of Michel Foucault’s writing Panopticism, he tell us of a plague stricken town and the precautions taken to ensure the disease is contained. The town is closed down to all; no one comes in and no one leaves. Each family is confined to their house, “prohibited to leave under punishment of death” (209). Guards and such are places throughout the town to secure it as well as keep records of how everyone feels…

    • 847 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    CONCLUSION As we see by analyzing Michel Foucault’s chapter, Panopticism, and Dominique Moran’s book, Carceral Spaces: Mobility and Agency in Imprisonment and Migrant Detention, prison architecture has evolved from confining those who were considered abnormal because they violated the law to mentally impacting prisoners by making them paranoid, scared, and frustrated. Initially, prisons were visible to the public because they were built in the center of the city to allow society to see what they…

    • 451 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Good Essays

    | Panopticism; Michel Foucault’s Ingenious Theory PHL 101 Issues in Philosophy | A French philosopher, Michel Foucault developed the theory Panopticism and is explained in his book, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Foucault was able to erect this theory based off of Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a panopticon. A panopticon is a circular structured building with a watchtower on top, emitting light from all directions. It lies in the middle of a wider circular area, enabling…

    • 1108 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    “Panopticism” Michel Foucault, very well seen as a leading academic and philosopher, wrote many great book and essays. The well known book, “Panopticism,” describes the idea of how one controls things through power. Foucault uses a broad variety of examples throughout the passage to convey the sense of society and how one is controlled by a panopticon. To share is thoughts on society he uses vivid descriptions of the idea of a plague in a community and how society was quarantined to remain sterile…

    • 576 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Well-known philosopher Michel Foucault wrote a book called ‘The Birth of the Clinic (1973)’, the main idea behind the book is that Foucault trails how medical knowledge was transferred by scientific methods in the eighteenth century. He recorded that the doctors based their treatments on observation of the patients symptoms rather than referencing books to analyse the type of disease the patient may have. Through observation, Foucault was able to develop the concept of ‘surveillance’ whereby, patients…

    • 616 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Michel Foucault once said “ Where there is power , there is resistance.” Foucault’s def-inition of power transcends what we often resonate it with in regards to status or politi-cal standing with in a community. He refers to it as something that is not socially con-structed but rather something more elusive. The way that Foucault defines power em-bodies exactly what unfolded within the African Diaspora so that there could be a tri-umphant resistance. The resistance to slavery was global and persistent…

    • 321 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    The third chapter of the book, “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison” by Michel Foucault is a look at the measures that were put into place in the seventeenth century when the plague was discovered in a town. The chapter, entitled Panopticism, discusses the social theory, named after the Panopticon, developed by Foucault. There is strict order that must be followed by all members of the town to ensure that the plague does not spread throughout the town and kill all of its inhabitants.…

    • 322 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    and think as they do. Many times his explanation is very much branched off of J. Bentham's "Panopticon". In one paragraph of "Panopticism", a disciplinary mechanism is described, which is considered the best way for one to be punished, in that new knowledge and learning is gained by every individual. In this paragraph on page 316, Foucault explains how he feels a person should be disciplined and he looks at it from many different angles. "This enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which…

    • 810 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    the fundamental concepts of power, knowledge, and body are used in the examination of any structural domination. Garland breaks down the concepts of Foucault’s idea of power…

    • 780 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays