For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Archaeology of Knowledge

by Foucault, Michel (2002)


In France, a country that awards its intellectuals the status other countries give their rock stars, Michel Foucault was part of a glittering generation of thinkers, one which also included Sartre, de Beauvoir and Deleuze. One of the great intellectual heroes of the twentieth century, Foucault was a man whose passion and reason were at the service of nearly every progressive cause of his time. From law and order, to mental health, to power and knowledge, he spearheaded public awareness of the dynamics that hold us all in thrall to a few powerful ideologies and interests. Arguably his finest work, Archaeology of Knowledge is a challenging but fantastically rewarding introduction to his ideas.

Key Passage

Lastly, there are important shifts between different archaeological ruptures – and sometimes even between discursive formations that are very close and linked by a great many relations. Let us take the disciplinesof languages and historical analysis: the great transformation that gave rise at the beginning of the nineteenth century to a historical, comparative grammar preceded by a good half-century the mutation inhistorical discourse: as a result, the system of interpositivity in which philology was involved was profoundly affected in the second half of the nineteenth century, without the positivity of philology ever beingput into question. Hence phenomena of ‘fragmented shift’, of which we can cite at least another famous example: concepts like those of surplus value or falling rate of profit, as found in Marx, may bedescribed on the basis of the system of positivity that is already in operation in the work of Ricardo; but these concepts (which are new, but whose rules of formation are not) appear – in Marx himself – asbelonging at the same time to a quite different discursive practice: they are formed in that discursive practice in accordance with specific laws, they occupy in it a different position, they do not figure in the samesequences: this new positivity is not a transformation of Ricardo’s analyses; it is not a new political economy; it is a discourse that occurred around the derivation of certain economic concepts, but which, in turn, defines the conditions in which the discourse of economists takes place, and may therefore be valid as a theory and acritique of political economy. (p.194)


Foucault, Marx, Ricardo, Discourse, Discursive, Archaeology, Archaeology Of Knowledge, Mental Health, Power


Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault Citations

Links to Reference



How to contribute.