Analysis of Michael Foucault’s ideas and methods in social sciences

Michael Foucault was a brilliant researcher and professor with extensive academic publications in the field of humanities and social sciences abode between 1926 and 1984. He was a political activist, who really despised modern life due to the oppression he witnessed. He used his lecturing and academic opportunity as a forum to criticize tyrannical power.

This made him one of the intellectual heroes of social justice movements in France, with greater focus on the marginalized persons in society including children, women, prisoners, deviants and patients.

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Michael addressed the struggle of individuals in the society and the existing institutions of power, giving an in depth analysis of the Marxist capitalist theory. Some of his quintessential works include; Madness and civilization, History of insanity in the age of reason (1961), the birth of a clinic (1963), History and sexuality (1984), Discipline and Punish, The Birth of the Prison (1977) among other prodigious works.

Michael examined some of the underlying rules in society and existing cultures of people while discussing the methods used to understand archaeology. He wrote that society believed that ideas cannot be imagined, asking himself some of the rules that governed these ideas. He used archaeology to analyze what makes an idea powerful or authoritative and the constraints in individual’s thinking. Michael’s idea has been applied overwhelmingly by historians to unmask some of the views which had been hidden for many years.

Archaeological study has been instrumental in analyzing previous research works which were regarded as naive and insignificant. This study therefore puts into light the truth and history which had not been explained by previous researchers. It opens the minds of historians and the public to trace the root causes of issues that negatively or positively impact the society.

Inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, Michael looked at genealogy as an attempt to write history for those who had been left out. He believed genealogy looked at convectional and unconventional history which has been silenced, unfinished and subversive. The study also looked at the knowledge which had been regarded as unscientific with a provision for criticism.

Michael had a view that genealogical investigations have been made possible with the removal of tyranny of overall discourses. The genealogical ideas can be applied when studying the society as it helps to trace societal roots and origins through debates which could not be accommodated in the past.

The understanding is important as it allows free absorption of societal knowledge and reactive to local knowledge. This study allows scholars to be tactical and skeptical, as it is the foundation in which archaeological understanding is focused against unitary, formal and scientific theoretical discourse.

Michael believed that every society struggles to get an uninterrupted right to speak. He looked at discourse as involving written, spoken and expressed language.

Foucault defined discourse as authorized statements about a particular subject. He reiterated that discourse is a social language which is created by a given cultural condition at a given time and place to give us information about a person who is speaking, his/her culture, the social institution he is involved in and the cultural beliefs upheld. This study can be applied in situations when one is studying a culture of a particular group.

It is important because it creates a world that shapes our reality with the changing times and assists us to generate truth or what is perceived to be true. Finally discourse enables us to understand how power agitates one to address a situation. For instance, a medical discourse gives a medical doctor a authority to examine patient and give a right medication.

Michael looked at normalization as a social process which treats ideas as normal. This involves construction of some norms and conducts which regulates our behavior in the society; giving an example with what he called ‘Hitler’s boys’. He reiterated that normalization was an ensemble of tactics for ensuring maximum societal control.

This understanding of normalization is applied in the developing of various regulations. Normalization is important as it explains the reason behind existing norms and why people adhere to them. Besides, it explains why there are norms, laws and regulations within the societies and the penalties tagged when violated.

Foucault viewed truth as product of relations of power. Societies have different forms of knowledge which acts as the basis of truth. In his view, power determines the truth which changes with the changing societal systems. Foucault explains that knowledge will be provided when a discourse has been created in life, though this type of truth can neither be true nor false.

The truths in society come from the power which is generally accepted. The idea can be applied when looking at the existing beliefs and opinions regarded by people as true. The study of truth is important as it allows us to fathom factual matters within our societies and how to treat a statement as either true or false.


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