Foucault Michel

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Foucault Michel

(1926-84) a major figure in the great French philosophical debate on reason, language, knowledge and power, whose work was influenced by MARX, FREUD, NIETZSCHE and BATAILLE and has exerted a massive influence throughout sociology as well as in CULTURAL STUDIES. Although sometimes referred to as a 'S tructuralist’ he usually rejected this label (see STRUCTURALISM, POSTSTRUCTURALISM). He is perhaps best seen as a ‘poststructuralist’ in the sense that he wished to discover the non-rational scaffolding of‘reason’, but without any commitment to either an underlying order or a finally determinant power in the construction. Seeing himself as working in the ‘wreckage of history’, and enlarging on Nietzsche's linkage of knowledge with power (power/knowledge) , he sought to locate (see The Order of Things, 1966) the ‘discursive practices’ (DISCOURSE AND DISCOURSE FORMATION; EPISTEME) which at different places and times exert ‘power’, not least over human bodies, but also increasingly over the 'S oul’. Modern medicine, psychiatry and social work and such new professions are all potent examples of contemporary ‘disciplinary power’. Although he would not have seen himself as a sociologist, Foucault's historical studies of MADNESS (Madness and Civilization, 1962), of medical knowledge, imprisonment (Discipline and Punish, 1975) and SEXUALITY (History of Sexuality 1979) have been a major focus of interest for sociologists and have stimulated much debate and research. Foucault challenges directly the Enlightenment idea that knowledge leads straightforwardly to liberation. Instead, knowledge is seen as a subtle basis of new means of social and self/bodily control (see also SURVEILLANCE). Since people are always striving to gain some control over their lives, resistance movements do emerge (see TRANSGRESSION), but there is no guarantee that such movements will not simply spawn new bases of alienating social power. Critics of Foucault have argued that his attack on Reason undermines the 'S elf’ as well as the grounds for any effective social critique. See also ARCHAEOLOGY 2 , GENEALOGY, PANOPTICAN, CONFESSIONAL TECHNOLOGIES.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000

Foucault Michel


The dream philosophy of famous French thinker Michel Foucault (1926–1984) can be found in his essay “Dream, Imagination and Existence,” published in 1954 as an introduction to Ludwig Binswanger’s essay “Dream and Existence.” This essay appeared when Foucault, even though very young, had already engaged in a considerable amount of philosophical study, which included the works of Edmund Husserl, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Gaston Bachelard, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ludwig Binswanger. He was also familiar with a wide variety of observations on dreams found in the literature, drama, religion, and philosophies of other times.

In “Dream, Imagination and Existence” he conducts a deep analysis of humanity’s place in the world by seeking the fundamental features of human existence, not in perception but in the dream. Foucault thus reversed the common thesis that the dream is merely one variety of imagination and proposed the uncommon thesis that “the dream is not a modality of the imagination, the dream is the first condition of its possibility.” In other words, the dream represents the fundamental condition for the imagination.

For Foucault an adequate theory of the imagination presupposes nothing less than an adequate understanding of the phenomenon of dreaming. Imagining is rooted in the dream, and the very character of existence is to be discerned in the oneiric (dreamlike). For Foucault the dreamworld is animated by the individual’s consciousness and, like perceptual experience, aims at a meaningful whole. The dream is a “quasi world,” containing neglected information about ourselves. The quasi world of dream, like the perceptual world, is a fundamental mode of our being and, hence, a realm with its own kind of elusive totality and meaningful structure. Its significance and structure cannot be understood by reference only to the past, especially to a past that is externally related to the dream.

According to Foucault the dream is not a degenerated variety of imagining, but is the parent of the imagination, and the origin of the dream is the origination of existence, that is, the origin of the human soul. He asserted that, while one is dreaming, one’s consciousness sleeps, but one’s existence (human soul) awakens. Also, dreams about death are to be considered the most important dreams available to individuals, because instead of being about life in its various interpretations, they are about the fulfillment of existence, the moment in which life reaches its fulfillment.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.