History of Madness
by Foucault, Michel (2013)
When it was first published in France in 1961 as Folie et Déraison: Histoire de la Folie à l'âge Classique, few had heard of a thirty-four year old philosopher by the name of Michel Foucault. By the time an abridged English edition was published in 1967 as Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault had shaken the intellectual world. This translation is the first English edition of the complete French texts of the first and second edition, including all prefaces and appendices, some of them unavailable in the existing French edition. History of Madness begins in the Middle Ages with vivid descriptions of the exclusion and confinement of lepers. Why, Foucault asks, when the leper houses were emptied at the end of the Middle Ages, were they turned into places of confinement for the mad? Why, within the space of several months in 1656, was one out of every hundred people in Paris confined? Shifting brilliantly from Descartes and early Enlightenment thought to the founding of the Hôpital Général in Paris and the work of early psychiatrists Philippe Pinel and Samuel Tuke, Foucault focuses throughout, not only on scientific and medical analyses of madness, but also on the philosophical and cultural values attached to the mad. He also urges us to recognize the creative and liberating forces that madness represents, brilliantly drawing on examples from Goya, Nietzsche, Van Gogh and Artaud. The History of Madness is an inspiring and classic work that challenges us to understand madness, reason and power and the forces that shape them.
In 1622 a pamphlet appeared, the Grevious Groan for the Poor, which was attributed to Dekker, and underlined the peril the country faced, while condemning a widespread negligence:Though the number of the poor do daily increase, all things yet worketh for the worst on their behalf; [for there hath been no collection for them,no, not these seven years, in many parishes in the land, especially in thecountry towns; but] many of these parishes turneth forth their poor, yea,and their lusty labourers that will not work, [or for any misdemeanourwant work,] to beg, filch and steal for their maintenance, so that the country is pitifully pestered with them.The fear was that the country might be overrun, and as it was impossible for them to move to another country as on the continent, it was suggested that they might be ‘banished and conveyed to the New-Found Land, the East and West Indies’. In 1630, the King set up a royal commission to supervise the vigorous application of the laws concerning the poor. The same year he published a series of ‘Orders and Directions’ that recom-mended that all beggars and vagabonds should be pursued, as well as ‘any persons that live out of service, or that live idly and will not work for reasonable wages, or live to spend all they have in the ale house’. They were to be punished in accordance with the law, and placed in houses of correction. As for those who had dependants, it was first of all to be verified that they were in fact genuinely married, and that their children were baptised, for ‘these people live like savages, neither marry nor bury,nor christen; which licentious libertie make so many delight to berogues and wanderers’. Despite the recovery that began in England inthe middle of the century, the problem had still not been solved by the time of Cromwell, as the Lord Mayor complained that a ‘Vermine of the Commonwealth doth now swarme in and about this City, and Liberties disturbing and annoying the inhabitants and passengers, by hanging on coaches, and clamorously begging at the doores of Churches and private Houses.’ (p.65)
KeywordsFoucault, Madness, Civilization, Foucauldian, Postmodern, Poststructuralism
ThemesHistory of Madness
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