ABSTRACT

Over the last decades Michel Foucault has published a string of important and controversial books about the 'human sciences'. All have been cast in the form of histories; that is, they have treated the historic emergence and early development of the respective sciences, particularly in the period around the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. Thus Foucault has discussed historic 'discourses' on madness, disease and normality, crime and punishment, sexuality, and much else as well. The books treating these subjects take the form of histories, but they are far indeed from conventionally professional history-writing, particularly as practised in the English-speaking countries. They are also vehemently radical. These two facts have occasioned considerable confusion and misunderstanding around Foucault's books, among enthusiasts and detractors alike, as well as some sound criticism. There is doubtless need for more discussion still before Foucault's work becomes generally accessible.