Silicon Valley Sociological Review


The French post-structuralist thinker, Michel Foucault, was a philosopher, psychologist, historian and sociologist. He combined this interdisciplinary knowledge to theorize new conceptualizations of discipline, power, and knowledge and their implications for ideas of human bodies, sex, and sexuality, all of which culminated in his overarching quest to investigate the production of truth. Foucault examined how institutions and people regulate bodies, both their own and those of others, in society and rooted his theories in examples of the institutions and discourses of his time while channeling experiences from his own identity as a disciplinary scholar and gay man. Deviating from conflict theory, Foucault theorized truth and power as omnipresent and relational forces constructing all institutions, disciplines, and discourse. Beyond conflict theorists' critiques of Foucault's ideas on power, Foucault has also received many critiques from feminist scholars such as Nancy Hartsock and Nancy Fraser who objected to his perspective on power, considering his own position of relative privilege as a man. Thus, his discussions of power, though intended for a universal audience, are less relevant to women's experiences. Additionally, his conception of power as an omnipresent and relational force limits people's ability to change power discrepancies. This intellectual biography finds that while Foucault's own identity and background crucially informed his theories, they also left his ideas vulnerable to the criticisms they face today. Nonetheless, through both his enduring contributions and their continual critique and revision by modern theorists, Foucault's impact on sociology, psychology, and philosophy, among other things, continue to impact contemporary social and cultural works.