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Michel Foucault was a philosopher, activist and historian of ideas, born in 1929 to a Bourgeoisie family in Poitiers, France. He studied in Paris under numerous philosophers and worked hard to attend high-ranked schools to develop his knowledge of philosophy and history. His path to academic success began when he attended École Normale Supérieure, an elite school in Paris.Foucault wrote critically about the relationship between knowledge and power as a mechanism for social control. He developed Jeremy Bentham’s concept of the Panopticon into the theory of Panopticism in his book, Discipline and Punish (1975). He used the Panopticon as a metaphor of modern disciplinary societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalise behaviour.Some main ideas he developed involved mental health, medicine, sexuality and knowledge and power. He intended to find the truth about the world and adopted the idea that philosophy must develop through the study of history, so above being a social theorist, Foucault was a historian. His other critical texts include History of Madness (1961) and History of Sexuality (1984). He was briefly a follower of Marxism and supported the idea of power to the Proletariat, rejecting his own class’s power, which may have influenced his later works concerning the lack of power for people. He was an activist who fought for prison rights and gay liberation and was a critic of capitalism and patriarchy and wanted to help dismantle binary categories.He held various positions and high status, teaching his findings in universities across the world, including being named French cultural delegate at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, and Warsaw University and the University of Hamburg. He explored the pre-modern and post-modern world and questioned if modernity was a positive step for humanity to develop.Foucault died in 1984 from an AIDS-related illness, but he left his mark on the world; the way we think about systems and the truth is influenced greatly by his research.

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