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Michel Foucault’s Comrades and Rivals

Your favorite critic has plenty of frenemies.


Louis Girard

This philosopher was my personal tutor. All I can say is the guy really had my back. I studied history and philosophy with him at Lycée Henry-IV and really have him to thank for nurturing my budding mind.

Jean Hyppolite

I affectionately refer to this crazy smart philosopher and authority on Hegel as "My Hippo." As my personal tutor, Hyppolite seriously helped make existentialist theories comprehensible as they related to Hegel and Karl Marx. (Thank goodness, because this was before funny YouTube videos that demonstrate complex theories with cutesy cat videos). Thanks to My Hippo, I ended up believing that philosophy could help us explain the mysteries of historical thought.

Louis Althusser

So much to say about Louis. This guy is like a luminary of French philosophy. Louis got me to get on board with the Communist Party, which never really rocked my world, but I l just did what Louis told me to do because I looked up to him like a big brother. BTW: check out his work on the "cult of personality," and you'll never look at Tom Cruise the same way again.

Daniel Defert

All I can say is: I love you, man. Daniel is my life-long partner, though we aren't limited by the constraints of monogamy—duh. People got super ticked off when I hooked up DD with a job at my university even though he was obvs less qualified. Boo to the rule abiders!

Gilles Deleuze

Maximum respect for this French philosopher. I mean, he wrote about my work, which is brave! Plus, the guy gave a tear-jerker of a speech at my funeral, even quoting one of my tour de force works: The History of Sexuality. So me to have sexuality to come up at my funeral, right?


Jacques Derrida

I don't want to be nasty, but Jacques was still in diapers when I was finishing my masterpiece on madness—and he still had the bravado to criticize me. My very own pupil at the École Normale Supérieure, Derrida gave some speech ("The Cogito and the History of Madness") charging me with promoting metaphysics. The nerve! It's really insulting because he knew that I strongly believe that the subject always invents the self. So let me take this opportunity, once and for all, to say: I do not believe in metaphysics because I think self-presence is just a pile of so-and-so. Three cheers for transformation!

P.S. Behind his back, I called him La-De-Da because, seriously, who really gets what this guy is droning on about? I hated La-De-Da until 1981 and then decided to move on with my life. Still harboring feelings, though. Obvs.

Roger Garaudy

This one was a real pain in the posterior, if you know what I mean. Ugh, I don't even like saying his name. Roger was some big burrito in the Communist Party, but he was about as smart as a cobblestone and just could not get off the whole Soviet party line hobbyhorse.

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

These two existentialist wonder twins thought they were soooo smart. I actually look back nostalgically on the days when we used to snark at each other in the newspapers. They would accuse me of being "bourgeois," which is the equivalent of a "Your Mama" joke among us French thinkers. Not cool. I got them back, though, by cutting on their use of old hat Marxist ideas, saying: "Marxism exists in nineteenth-century thought as a fish exists in water; that is, it ceases to breathe anywhere else" (source). Zing!

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