Macey (Lives of Michel Foucault, 1993) has authored another fascinating biography of Michel Foucault, one of the most influential French philosophers since World War II. The new biography one-fourth the length of the first deftly intertwines accounts of Foucault s schooling, work, travels, personal life and political activism. Macey s concise summaries offer a glimpse of the extraordinary breadth of Foucault s work, which explored the history of madness in the classical age, the emergence of the human sciences, medicine as a means of social control and changes in the regulation of prisoners, workers, psychiatric patients and sexual desires. Macey highlights what many consider Foucault s most groundbreaking insight: that power is not simply repressive: it generates discourses rather than silencing them. For example, Victorian Britain was not characterized by a silence about sexuality, but by a proliferation of discourses that incited talk about sexuality. The book s greatest strength is its attention to Foucault s political activism on behalf of university reform, prison reform, gay rights, the Vietnamese Boatpeople and other causes. He downplays some of the more sensational aspects of Foucault s life by situating him within the political and intellectual worlds of his day. Disputing the myth that [Foucault] was an unconditional supporter of Khomeini, Macey argues that there was a fairly widespread belief in far-left circles in Europe [...] that forces like the Mujahideen guerrillas would emerge to lead a people s revolution. He also counters the scandals surrounding Foucault s AIDS-related death in 1984, when some charged that he concealed his illness, or willfully infected others. Foucault knew he was seriously ill, but little was known about AIDS at that time. His longtime partner, Daniel Defert, founded AIDES, France s first organization for people with AIDS in the fall of 1984. If we had [...] been ashamed, I would never have created AIDES, said Defert. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Scotland on Sunday
- S.B. Kelly
"This detailed little biography of the French theorist of sexuality, punishment and madness is also a neat primer of his ideas…This excellent series should dispel many of the silly shibboleths about critical theory."
New York Sun
- Carl Rollyson
"Mr. Macey's account of Foucault's political evolution is compelling."
New York Times
- William Grimes
"This may be everyone's last, best chance to get a handle on Michel Foucault before he disappears from the radar screen. . . . David Macey does the job."
- Delia Despina Dumitrica
"An interesting and enjoyable introduction to the life of the French philosopher. This very brief book is very suitable reading for those curious about the context in which Foucault's work emerged, while the rich collection of photographs puts a face on one of the most popular names in today's social sciences. . . . the strength of Macey's work lies in its attempt to capture not only the 'essence' of an individual identity, but rather the contradictory multiplicity of the self, its fluid and mosaic nature."