Michel Foucault: Historian or Philosopher?

Foucault at the Collège de France


Clare O'Farrell, Michel Foucault: Historian or Philosopher? Macmillan Press (London), and St Martin's Press (USA), 1989 hardback, 1993 paperback, 188 pages, ISBN: 0-333-48944-6


The controversial French thinker, Michel Foucault, was famous not only for the variety of his interests but also for his frequent changes of position. Clare O'Farrell, in a lively and lucid account argues that for all this diversity his work was held together by a coherent theme, namely the idea that philosophy should be practised as an historical inquiry into the limits of ordered experience. At the same time, Foucault's work is situated in its intellectual and social context in France and striking differences between its French- and English-language reception are discussed and explained.


1. A New Generation of Thinkers
2. The Same, the Other and the Limit
3. Discontinuity and Order
4. In Search of the Limit
5. The Limits Forgotten
6. The Return of the Limits


Peter Beilharz, 'Review [of 4 books on Foucault]', Thesis Eleven, 32 (1992), 154-158.

S.E. Cole, 'Review', Clio, 21 (1992), 308-11.

Roger Paden, 'Review', International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 30 (1991), 191-2.

Chris Philo, 'Review', Journal of Historical Geography, 17, 2 (April 1991). 231-33

James H. Quinlan, 'Review', The French Review, 66, 1 (October 1992), 123-4

C.E. Reagan, 'Review', Choice, (July - August 1990), 1838

A. Szakolez, 'Review', Contemporary Sociology - A Journal of Reviews, 22 (1993), p. 279

Where to buy

This book is now out of print but can be obtained from libraries and second hand from Amazon and elsewhere. The first chapter of the book (without its footnotes can be found here.