Discourse is not the majestically unfolding manifestation of a thinking, knowing, speaking subject, but, on the contrary, a totality, in which the dispersion of the subject and his discontinuity with himself may be determined.

This quote, which comes at the end of Foucault’s chapter on “Enunciative Modalities” (Part II, Chapter 4) brings together a number of major themes and suggests the impressive philosophical implications of his historical method. Reconceiving discourse as an anonymous but completely describable formation has profound implications for the philosophy of the human subject. Because discourse defines the various positions we occupy as subjects, our selfhood turns out to be “dispersed” in a network of statements that is vast, foreign to us, and beyond our control.

Popular pages: The Archaeology of Knowledge