Madness and Civilization (1961)

Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason was written by French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault and published in 1961. In it, Foucault offers a deep and complex treatment of the role of madness in Western society in which he seeks to identify the cultural, intellectual, and economic structures that dictate how madness is constructed. Like many of Foucault’s works, Madness and Civilization focuses on the classical period from 1660 to the end of the 19th century—a period that he saw as the birthplace of many of the characteristic institutions and structures of the modern world.

The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969)

The Archaeology of Knowledge was written with the subtitle And the Discourse on Language. It represents Foucault’s attempt, to describe theoretically the method he had used in his first three books of history (Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, and The Order of Things). It is not a presentation of a formal theory built logically from axioms, but rather a description of a specific kind of approach to history—a “way of speaking” about history.

The History of Sexuality, Volume 1 (1976)

The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Volume 1 was the first of what would ultimately become a four-volume study of sexuality in Western culture. Volumes 2 and 3 of Foucault’s survey were published in 1984. Volume 4 was published posthumously in 2018. In Volume 1, which is sometimes given the subtitle The Will to Knowledge, Foucault suggests that Western society was far more open in discussing sexuality from the 17th century on than is generally believed.