One of the leading intellectuals of the twentieth century and the most prominent thinker in post-war France, Foucault's work influenced disciplines as diverse as history, sociology, philosophy, sociology and literary criticism.
Mutterings from the arch-mandarin: interviews, essays, and samples of the many brilliant but torturous books (Madness and Civilization, Discipline and Punish, The History of Sexuality, Power/Knowledge, etc.) by the world's leading meta-historian. As the anthology unfolds, newcomers to Foucault should be dazzled by his erudition and analytical daring in reconstructing the patterns of institutional power (prisons, insane asylums, hospitals, workhouses) and, still more ambitiously, the genealogy of the self in western culture. Foucault displays an exceptional grasp of recondite sources (everyting from Isocrates' views on pederasty to obscure 18th-century medical texts) and a gift for opening up dramatic new perspectives (as in his evocation of the Great Confinement, which he dates from the founding of Paris' Hopital General in 1656). But these highly original archaeological studies are vitiated by Foucault's oracular vagueness and abstract neologisms - empiricities, adjacencies, heteropias, penality. He delights in the impenetrable apothegm ( Nietzsche. . . burned for us. . . the intermingled promises of the dialectic and anthropology ), the outrageous claim ( Marxism exists in 19th century thought like a fish in water: that is, it is unable to breathe anywhere else ), the staggering generalization ( The space of Western knowledge is now about to topple ), and the sniffish pronouncement ( Sex is boring ). A handy collection for Foucaultistes, but the uninitiated will have to take the bafflement along with the enrichment. (Kirkus Reviews)