Deciphering Foucault: Part I

Being the master of cognitive relativism (at least in my opinion), Foucault has a way of describing words and concepts so ambiguously that they can be understood in several ways. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on the reader, I guess. I like it though. I like how a lot of paragraphs in his books can serve as direct references or metaphors or allegories for contemporary concepts, issues and phenomena that we encounter everyday, because he occasionally provides subtle recommendations by merely tracing and observing the change in the inter-subjective meaning of a phenomenon throughout centuries.


In this particular part of Madness & Civilization, I understand it not only as a descriptive statement of how the government dealt with idled people and the unemployed in the 17th century; it seems to me that Foucault has also successfully limned the features of how modern states treat immigrants and refugees these days. One can also interpret it as a commentary on the Social Contract–whether it’s negative or not depends on how you perceive the emotions that flow through his words.


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