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Michel Foucault

WithJoyce Appleby, Elizabeth Covington, David Hoyt, Michael Latham, Allison Sneider

Michel Foucault died in 1984, leaving followers and critics endlessly debating the validity and merit of his works. His works defy synthesis; neither conventionally historical nor purely philosophical, they utilize and subvert the terminologies of both disciplines at will. Sympathetic historians are willing to forgive Foucault for his sins against careful documentation: he was truly a philosopher, they claim, and thus not subject to the rigorous requirements of orthodox fact-gathering. Hostile historians feel Foucault’s blatant disregard for “proper” evidence disqualifies his philosophy from historical contests. As if defying the parameters of academic disciplines were not enough, Foucault wrote difficult prose punctuated by obscure references and recurrent neologisms. Nonetheless, Foucault’s works have had a phenomenal impact upon many social scientific disciplines.