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Foucault, Michel (1926–1984)

Michel Foucault was one of the most influential social theorists of the 20th century. He held a chair at the Collège de France; his studies on mental health, prison and penal reform, sexuality, and epistemology have profoundly influenced their respective fields. Particularly in academic humanities, Foucault's work enjoys widespread influence.

Much of Foucault's work drew on his personal experience. He was born in Poitiers, France, the son of a surgeon, and he spent a good part of his adult life critically reexam-ining the history of medicine, particularly its practitioners' troubling use of coercion. His early years in the rigidly structured elite French educational system seem to have deeply informed his analysis of institutionalized power relationships. In addition, his open homosexuality—and his embrace of its sadomasochistic subculture—led ...

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