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64 Interesting Quotes By Michel Foucault

Famous As: Philosopher & Historian
Born On: October 15, 1926
Died On: June 25, 1984
Born In: Poitiers, France
Died At Age: 57
Michel Foucault was an eminent French philosopher, historian, literary critic, and social theorist. His writings, thoughts and theories primarily highlight the relationship between knowledge and power. They also throw light on how societal institutions use power and knowledge as a form of social control. He was often labelled as postmodernist and post-structuralist, but he condemned these labels. His works, writings, and thoughts have strongly influenced academics, including those working in literary theory, sociology, critical theory and cultural studies. His theories have also been termed as compelling by activist groups. We have created a corpus of thought-provoking, motivating and inspiring quotes by Michel Foucault. Let us browse through the quotes and thoughts by Michel Foucault on trap, oppression, nature, chance, life, power, technology, love, society, freedom, justice, expression and more.
People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does.

People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does.

Michel Foucault
I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.

I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.

Michel Foucault
Where there is power, there is resistance.

Where there is power, there is resistance.

Michel Foucault
Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.

Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting.

Michel Foucault
I'm no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls.

I'm no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls.

Michel Foucault
I don't write a book so that it will be the final word; I write a book so that other books are possible, not necessarily written by me.

I don't write a book so that it will be the final word; I write a book so that other books are possible, not necessarily written by me.

Michel Foucault
Maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are but to refuse what we are.

Maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are but to refuse what we are.

Michel Foucault
The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.

The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.

Michel Foucault
Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same. More than one person, doubtless like me, writes in order to have no face.

Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same. More than one person, doubtless like me, writes in order to have no face.

Michel Foucault
The 'Enlightenment', which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.

The 'Enlightenment', which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines.

Michel Foucault
But the guilty person is only one of the targets of punishment. For punishment is directed above all at others, at all the potentially guilty.

But the guilty person is only one of the targets of punishment. For punishment is directed above all at others, at all the potentially guilty.

Michel Foucault
The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes.

The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes.

Michel Foucault
Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same.

Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same.

Michel Foucault
There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations

There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations

Michel Foucault
I'm not making a problem out of a personal question; I make of a personal question an absence of a problem.

I'm not making a problem out of a personal question; I make of a personal question an absence of a problem.

Michel Foucault
Death left its old tragic heaven and became the lyrical core of man: his invisible truth, his visible secret.

Death left its old tragic heaven and became the lyrical core of man: his invisible truth, his visible secret.

Michel Foucault
What desire can be contrary to nature since it was given to man by nature itself?

What desire can be contrary to nature since it was given to man by nature itself?

Michel Foucault
Justice must always question itself, just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions.

Justice must always question itself, just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions.

Michel Foucault
Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable.

Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable.

Michel Foucault
We have to be there at the birth of ideas, the bursting outward of their force: not in books expressing them, but in events manifesting this force, in struggles carried on around ideas, for or against them.

We have to be there at the birth of ideas, the bursting outward of their force: not in books expressing them, but in events manifesting this force, in struggles carried on around ideas, for or against them.

Michel Foucault
Schools serve the same social functions as prisons and mental institutions- to define, classify, control, and regulate people.

Schools serve the same social functions as prisons and mental institutions- to define, classify, control, and regulate people.

Michel Foucault
You may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said; but don't imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he.

You may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said; but don't imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he.

Michel Foucault
From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art.

From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art.

Michel Foucault
The first task of the doctor is ... political: the struggle against disease must begin with a war against bad government.

The first task of the doctor is ... political: the struggle against disease must begin with a war against bad government." Man will be totally and definitively cured only if he is first liberated...

Michel Foucault
We demand that sex speak the truth [...] and we demand that it tell us our truth, or rather, the deeply buried truth of that truth about ourselves wich we think we possess in our immediate consciousness.

We demand that sex speak the truth [...] and we demand that it tell us our truth, or rather, the deeply buried truth of that truth about ourselves wich we think we possess in our immediate consciousness.

Michel Foucault
There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.

There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.

Michel Foucault
There is no glory in punishing

There is no glory in punishing

Michel Foucault
I am hopelessly in love with a memory. 
An echo from another time, another place.

I am hopelessly in love with a memory. An echo from another time, another place.

Michel Foucault
The soul is the effect and instrument of a political anatomy; the soul is the prison of the body

The soul is the effect and instrument of a political anatomy; the soul is the prison of the body

Michel Foucault
The individual is the product of power.

The individual is the product of power.

Michel Foucault
Knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting.

Knowledge is not made for understanding; it is made for cutting.

Michel Foucault
The language of psychiatry is a monologue of reason about madness

The language of psychiatry is a monologue of reason about madness

Michel Foucault
People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.

People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.

Michel Foucault
Power is tolerable only on condition that it masks a substantial part of itself. Its success is proportional to an ability to hide its own mechanisms.

Power is tolerable only on condition that it masks a substantial part of itself. Its success is proportional to an ability to hide its own mechanisms.

Michel Foucault
Death as the destruction of all things no longer had meaning when life was revealed to be a fatuous sequence of empty words, the hollow jingle of a jester’s cap and bells.

Death as the destruction of all things no longer had meaning when life was revealed to be a fatuous sequence of empty words, the hollow jingle of a jester’s cap and bells.

Michel Foucault
Nature, keeping only useless secrets, had placed within reach and in sight of human beings the things it was necessary for them to know.

Nature, keeping only useless secrets, had placed within reach and in sight of human beings the things it was necessary for them to know.

Michel Foucault
The court is the bureaucracy of the law. If you bureaucratise popular justice then you give it the form of a court.

The court is the bureaucracy of the law. If you bureaucratise popular justice then you give it the form of a court.

Michel Foucault
Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order.

Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order.

Michel Foucault
We must not think that by saying yes to sex, one says no to power.

We must not think that by saying yes to sex, one says no to power.

Michel Foucault
It is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of public punishment that must discourage crime

It is the certainty of being punished and not the horrifying spectacle of public punishment that must discourage crime

Michel Foucault
Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.

Prefer what is positive and multiple, difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.

Michel Foucault
No seventeenth-century pedagogue would have publicly advised his disciple, as did Erasmus in his Dialogues, on the choice of a good prostitute.

No seventeenth-century pedagogue would have publicly advised his disciple, as did Erasmus in his Dialogues, on the choice of a good prostitute.

Michel Foucault
Confined on the ship, from which there is no escape, the madman is delivered to the river with its thousand arms, the sea with it's thousand roads, to that great uncertainty external to everything.

Confined on the ship, from which there is no escape, the madman is delivered to the river with its thousand arms, the sea with it's thousand roads, to that great uncertainty external to everything.

Michel Foucault
Self-attachment is the first sign of madness, but it is because man is attached to himself that he accepts error as truth, lies as reality, violence and ugliness as beauty and justice.

Self-attachment is the first sign of madness, but it is because man is attached to himself that he accepts error as truth, lies as reality, violence and ugliness as beauty and justice.

Michel Foucault
It is meaningless to speak in the name of - or against - Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.

It is meaningless to speak in the name of - or against - Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.

Michel Foucault
There is no escaping from power, that it is always-already present constituting that very thing which one attempts to counter it with.

There is no escaping from power, that it is always-already present constituting that very thing which one attempts to counter it with.

Michel Foucault
In the darkest region of the political field the condemned man represents the symmetrical, inverted figure of the king.

In the darkest region of the political field the condemned man represents the symmetrical, inverted figure of the king.

Michel Foucault
In civilizations without ships, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure and the police take the place of corsairs.

In civilizations without ships, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure and the police take the place of corsairs.

Michel Foucault
Life itself was only futility, vain words, a squabble of cap and bells.

Life itself was only futility, vain words, a squabble of cap and bells.

Michel Foucault
In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one 'episteme' that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in theory or silently invested in a practice.

In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one 'episteme' that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in theory or silently invested in a practice.

Michel Foucault
I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am.

I don't feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am.

Michel Foucault
My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous.

My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous.

Michel Foucault
Government is the right disposition of things.

Government is the right disposition of things.

Michel Foucault
Madness is the false punishment of a false solution, but by its own virtue it brings to light the real problem, which can then be truly resolved.

Madness is the false punishment of a false solution, but by its own virtue it brings to light the real problem, which can then be truly resolved.

Michel Foucault
Today, criminal justice functions and justifies itself only by this perpetual reference to something other than itself, by this unceasing reinscription in non-juridical systems.

Today, criminal justice functions and justifies itself only by this perpetual reference to something other than itself, by this unceasing reinscription in non-juridical systems.

Michel Foucault
As the archeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

As the archeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end.

Michel Foucault
How could the disciplines and the power that functions in them appear arbitrary, when they merely operate the mechanisms of justice itself, even with a view to mitigating their intensity?

How could the disciplines and the power that functions in them appear arbitrary, when they merely operate the mechanisms of justice itself, even with a view to mitigating their intensity?

Michel Foucault
We are entering the age of the infinite examination and of compulsory objectification.

We are entering the age of the infinite examination and of compulsory objectification.

Michel Foucault
Surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action.

Surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action.

Michel Foucault