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.

Discipline and Punish (1975)

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison was published in 1975 with the French title Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison. The book was first published in English in 1977. Discipline and Punish is a history of the modern Western penal system in which Foucault seeks to analyze punishment in its social context, and to examine how changing power relations affected punishment. Typical of Foucault’s works in that it was received with a wide range of reactions—generally more positively in France than elsewhere—it is nonetheless widely credited for initiating a useful discussion of the history of penology and causing people to rethink long-held assumptions about penal reform from the 19th century onward.

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