Throughout the course of his career as a historian, author, philosopher, and artist, Michel Foucault often shifted directions in his work, reinventing himself in the process and offering little explanation for his decisions to do so. Shortly after the publication of Madness and Civilization in 1961, he commanded, Do not ask me who I am, and do no tell me to remain the same. Foucault's approach to his life and work, which he often referred to as an art form and an abstraction, consequently made any endeavor to provide a conclusive analysis of his life and career inherently antithetical to both his methodology and to the breadth of his subject matter. With that contradiction in mind, scholars have nevertheless remained devoted to investigating patterns, variations, and trends in both his work and approach. Thus, a slightly fragmented and openly speculative analysis of Foucault's work has since become the most appropriate and effective way to study the multifaceted and inherently paradoxical nature of Michel Foucault's work.
[...] In addition to writing Discipline and Punish and the History of Sexuality Volume Foucault sought to expand upon his notion of power in its most general form to prove its effect on the modern individual. In explaining the need for a broader understanding of power, he said, “Hence it is a question of forming a different grid of historical decipherment by starting from a different theory of power; and, at the same time, of advancing little by little toward a different conception of power through a closer examination of an entire historical material. [...]
[...] While the nature of Foucault's life and work, in combination with his untimely death from AIDS, made it difficult to account for the shift in his concept of identity formation, it is nevertheless a worthy endeavor to speculate possible factors. Undoubtedly Foucault wrote from his own experiences beginning with life as a small boy in rural France. In an interview titled Minimalist Foucault explained what it was like growing up in France after the Nazi takeover. He said, private life was really threatened. [...]
[...] What Foucault appreciated, I think, in the California culture was that these experiences were experiences of community, rather than a psychological drama for individuals.” His popularity soared and he developed an almost cult-like following. In a 1983 lecture at Berkeley titled Culture of the Foucault addressed the need to constantly reinvent oneself which he thought was possible by way of kind of turn around on the spot.” He noted rupture with oneself, with one's past, with the word, and with all previous life.” While he noted that this as a life long struggle, he nevertheless inspired individuals to cultivate themselves in a fashion similar to what he discussed in The Care of the Self. [...]
[...] On this level, Foucault's work was, just as he said it was an allegory about soul, effect and instrument of political anatomy; the soul, prison of the body. As Foucault moved into his analysis of the prison in modern times, he questioned the increasingly humane treatment that most scholars praised. In his discussion of the evolution from the prison to the asylum to the penitentiary system, Foucault noted yet another shift in reform: the attempt to supervise morality as another means of molding individuals into compliant, productive bodies. [...]
[...] Whereas in his past works he saw the self as defined through the denial of pleasure, here Foucault stressed the link between body and soul as a social practice an obligation, really and the commitment one had to cultivate himself sexually, medically, emotionally, and so on. Entrenched in his argument was a historical explanation for the increased privacy granted to the individual. In noting the decline of the city state and the expansion of multiple centers of power, he commented, was not a strengthening of public authority that accounted for the development of that rigorous ethics, but rather a weakening of the political and social framework within which the lives of individuals used to unfold. [...]
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