This comprehensive book provides an indispensable introduction to the most significant figures in contemporary social theory. Grounded strongly in the European tradition, the profiles include Michel Foucault, J[um]urgen Habermas, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Pierre Bourdieu, Zygmunt Bauman, Martin Heidegger, Frederic Jameson, Richard Rorty, Nancy Chodorow, Anthony Giddens, Stuart Hall, Luce Irigaray and Donna Haraway. In guiding students through the key figures in an accessible and authoritative fashion, the book provides detailed accounts of the development of the work of major social theorists and charts the relationship between different traditions of social, cultural and political thought.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

I belong to a generation of people for whom the horizon of reflection was defined by Husserl in general, Sartre more precisely, and Merleau-Ponty even more precisely.

(Foucault 1988a: 141).

Biographical Details and Theoretical Context

Though overshadowed in the public eye by his colleague and intellectual sparring partner, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty was very much at the centre of French intellectual life in the 1940s and 1950s. Eribon (1991), for example, writes of the great enthusiasm for his work amongst Parisian students, including a young Foucault and other fledgling intellectuals. Furthermore, it is notable that central structuralist writers, who condemned the work of Sartre, exempted Merleau-Ponty from their critiques and even spoke of what they had learned from him. Althusser (1994) is one example and Lévi-Strauss, who ...

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