Michel Foucault - Nominee

1926 - 1984

Michel Foucault, who refused to be put into any one category, maintained that “The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not at the beginning.” Undeniably one of the most influential intellectuals of his time, in 1970 he became chairman of the History of Systems and Thought at the Collège de France. His writings and critical studies have had enormous impact on disciplines such as psychoanalysis, history, philosophy, medicine, linguistics, prison systems, and the human sciences. Foucault examined the codes and concepts by which societies operate and define themselves – especially the "principles of exclusion" such as the distinctions between sane/insane or gay/straight. By studying these social attitudes in relation to institutions (asylums, hospitals, prisons) he theorized that one could trace the development of power. Thus, there was no one history – only the recorded history of supremacy. His books included ‘Madness and Civilization’ (1961) which charted western society’s attitudes toward the insane, ‘The Order of Things’ (1966), ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (1969) – a methodological response to his critics, and ‘Discipline and Punish’ (1975) which explored the rise of penal institutions. His 3 volume ‘History of Sexuality’ (‘An Introduction,’ ‘The Uses of Pleasure,’ and ‘The Care of the Self’ - 1976 -1984, collectively) explored the relation between morality and sexuality. It was also among the first works to view homosexuality in a societal context. In 1960 he met philosopher David Defert who would become his life-partner of 20 years. An outspoken homosexual, Foucault died of complications from HIV in 1984.

Michel Foucault Headshot


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Aethist

Nations Affiliated France Sweden Poland Germany United States

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present)

Field(s) of Contribution






Social Justice


Related Images

Michel Foucault Hand on Head

Michel Foucault at His Desk

Daniel Defert and Michel Foucault

Noam Chomsky Debates With Michel Foucault (1971)

Michel Foucault and His Parents Tombstones

Related Videos

Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault in Conversation 1971

BBC Ideas Episode What Would Foucault Say About Fake News?


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell