Notes On Michel Foucault: Madness and Civilization

25 10 2007

I am currently reading books on and by Michel Foucault and thus I will be posting some comments, excerpts from his work and ideas related to Foucault. Here is an excerpt from Madness and Civilization that caught my eye.

“[U]nder observation madness .. is just by its acts. Madness no longer exists except as seen. The proximity instituted by the asylum, an intimacy neither chains nor bars would ever violate again, does not allow reciprocity, only the nearness of observation that watches, that spies, that comes closer in order to see better.”

(Michel Foucault Madness and Civilization Page 250)

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7 responses

25 10 2007
amelo14

I think the single most important element of this quote is that the asylum: 1) separates and segregates the ill from the healthy, and 2) creates a relation between the ill and their caretakers that is radically one-sided, silencing the ill, empowering the tendency towards a certain normality.

Although I have certain problems with Foucault (I have read most of his work), that book is really powerful.

26 10 2007
amal

what does that exactly mean ? please explain it further ..

27 10 2007
jahandost

amelo14, yes the theme of normalcy and power is prominent in this excerpt. It does remind one of the panopticon.

amal, To summarize Foucault in this case, he is saying that it is the (social) structure imposed by the asylum itself that defines what is normal. He even went further by saying that the psychiatrist did not derive his/her legitimacy to ‘cure’ based on some sound scientific theory but rather his legitimacy is part of the ‘cure.’

29 10 2007
Sumera

Madness is subjective – what consistutes “normality” is defined by society, culture and their respective norms 😛

30 10 2007
jahandost

normalcy is overrated Sumera. :p

16 11 2007
Ann

How might we understand a contemporary definition of madness?

22 05 2008
vendetta

A contemporary definition of madness would simply entail any behaviour that deviates from modern socio-cultural ‘norms’. How else does one define madness?

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