Michel Foucault

Book cover


Clare O'Farrell. (2005). Michel Foucault, London: SAGE.
ISBN-10: 076196164X (paperback). Hardback also available.


Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Titles for 2006.

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Cover blurbs

'Clare O'Farrell is to be congratulated on producing a truly magnificent book on the work of Michel Foucault. There are details, insights and observations that will engage the specialist and there is an extensive documentation of Foucault's output. If there is a more comprehensive book on Foucault's work I have yet to see it. I anticipate those teaching and taking courses on Foucault's work will find Clare O'Farrell's book to be an invaluable resource' - Barry Smart, University of Portsmouth

'Dr. Clare O'Farrell has written a marvelous introduction to this Foucault for that ever growing number of readers who are working in what has come to be designated as cultural studies. This volume captures the penetrating interdisciplinary concerns that have made Foucault a guide to so many beyond the frontiers of philosophy and history, beyond the borders of the academic community itself. O'Farrell is an excellent guide to Foucault's exploration of culture, highlighting, as she does, the characteristic insights of his learning: the instability of cultural forms of order, the subversive potential of historical analyses, the variety of true discourses within history, and his commitment to social justice. O'Farrell reveals Foucault as he is: the engaged moralist who survived the twentieth century's systems of total explanation. This is an excellent introduction for the general reader to a passionate mind that continues to spread its influence' - James Bernauer, Boston College


Michel Foucault's work is one of the most influential sources of ideas in the humanities and social sciences today. Clare O'Farrell offers a comprehensive and accessible introduction to Foucault's enormous, diverse and challenging output. Her book provides a range of practical tools and a reference work for readers who wish to understand and apply his ideas at both introductory and advanced levels. This volume includes:

  • a discussion of Foucault's situation in the contemporary context exploring his role as an iconic thinker, with clear explanations as to why his work is so difficult to come to grips with, and also importantly, why it is of interest to so many people.
  • the location of Foucault's work within its own historical, social and political setting.
  • brief summaries in chronological order of all of Foucault's major works, including the more recently published volumes of lectures.
  • the organization of Foucault's work around five distinct but interrelated series of assumptions which underpin his world view: namely order, history, truth, power and ethics. Ideas for which he is well-known, such as archaeology, genealogy, discourse, discipline, governmentality, the subject and others are defined and discussed within the framework of these five assumptions.
  • a chronology of Foucault's life, work and times.
  • a very extensive list of key concepts in Foucault's work with detailed references pointing to where the relevant material can be found in his writings.
  • a wide-ranging list of resources and a bibliography of Foucault's work for easy consultation.

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. A Cultural Icon
  3. Cultural Contexts
  4. Foucault's Major Works
  5. A Tool Box for Cultural Analysis
  6. The Unconscious of History and Culture
  7. Discontinuity and Discourse
  8. Truth and Culture
  9. Power and Culture
  10. Ethics and Subjectivity
  11. Chronology of Foucault's Life and Times
  12. Key Concepts in Foucault's Work
  13. Bibliography
  14. Index


Jeremy Carrette, 'Review', Foucault Studies, No 4, Feb 2007, pp. 164-168.

Jeremy Crampton, Review on The Foucault blog, 23 March 2007

Donna Hancox, 'Cultural Studies: Two New Views of Foucault', MC Reviews, 1 September 2007

Colin Hearfield 'Book Review', Journal of Sociology, 44, 2008, p. 437.

C.E. Reagan, 'Review', Choice The American Library Association journal, 2006.

Nick Trakakis, 'Review', Metapsychology Online Reviews May 15th 2007 (Volume 11, Issue 20)