Study Guide

Michel Foucault Quotes

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Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons? [From Discipline & Punish]

Short and sweet, right? This little observation intended to blow the lid off of institutions. In short: they all really look alike. Why? Because they all have the same ugly little goal of constraining and "disciplining" your body. Society is always doing a subliminal mindmeld to turn you into an obedient citizen. If it sounds like a zombie movie, that's because it basically is.

I'm very proud that some people think that I'm a danger for the intellectual health of students. When people start thinking of health in intellectual activities, I think there is something wrong. In their opinion I am a dangerous man, since I am a crypto-Marxist, an irrationalist, a nihilist. [From Truth, Power, Self: An Interview with Michel Foucault]

My first thought? Whatever. But then I think how ridiculous it is that just because I'm homosexual and lead a life that makes a frat boy look like a boy scout, people should hate on me and accuse me of being a bad influence. I laugh in the face of this idea of "intellectual health." What a load. That's institutional thinking for sure—people are just too scared to think outside of the box.

There is object proof that homosexuality is more interesting than heterosexuality. It's that one knows a considerable number of heterosexuals who would wish to become homosexuals, whereas one knows very few homosexuals who would really like to become heterosexuals. [Quoted in Aldrich and Wotherspoon]

I chuckle to myself every time I read this one—but it's so true. I think homosexuals are way more down with their sexuality that those heteros who are all tangled up and subdued by the institution of marriage. Count me out! P.S. Way to sell out, Brad and Angie.

We must not understand [madness] as reason diseased, or as reason lost or alienated, but quite simply as reason dazzled. [From Madness and Civilization (1964)]

I'm of the school that mad people may actually know something we don't. (I guess Shakespeare and I have that much in common.) Society totally underestimates madness because it can't deal with taking the time to appreciate it. See, madness makes society look bad—like a parent cringing when their kid has a temper tantrum in the supermarket—so we just try to control it. I, on the other hand, don't see madness as the opposite of reason but as an enhancement of reason. Try watching reality TV with that in mind.

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