THE PASSION OF MICHEL FOUCAULT by James Miller

THE PASSION OF MICHEL FOUCAULT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Revelatory, well-written account of the controversial life and writings of French historian and philosopher Foucault. Miller (``Democracy is in the Streets'', 1987, etc.) makes it clear from the start that this is not a full-fledged biography but, rather, a study that focuses on certain biographical details in order to illuminate essential features of Foucault's thought. For a quarter century, Foucault, who died of AIDS in 1984, was the source of heated intellectual debate throughout the world for his writings on power, knowledge, madness, personal identity, and sexuality. Along the way, he profoundly influenced scholarly approaches to literature, history, political science, anthropology, and other fields. Perhaps most influential were Foucault's writings on how power circulates through society, flowing through public and private institutions, permeating cultural works and intellectual disciplines, shaping the most intimate thoughts, desires, and feelings. Miller shows how these themes were related to--indeed, prompted by--aspects of Foucault's private life. He concentrates on Foucault's uneasy relations with society and his own self, detailing the philosopher's lifelong obsessions with death, suicide, rebellion, and the elusive nature of his own identity. There are also numerous passages devoted to Foucault's homosexuality, his interest in sadomasochism, his fitful forays into radical activism, and his experiments with drugs. This emphasis is bound to produce controversy, particularly among those who believe that Miller's relentless focus on biographical details distracts from the substance of Foucault's works. Anticipating this charge, Miller argues persuasively that his goal is to fashion a largely sympathetic view of a brilliant and often courageous thinker. A riveting portrait marred only by occasional lapses into redundancy, and likely to spur even greater interest--both within and outside the university--in the writings of this influential, enigmatic man.

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-69550-9
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992




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