70 Michel Foucault Quotes from the French Philosopher

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a pivotal French philosopher, social theorist and historian.

Born into affluence, personal struggles with sexuality profoundly influenced his later work.

A graduate of the École Normale Supérieure, he was mentored by thinkers like Hyppolite and Althusser.

Despite brief affiliations with Marxism and the French Communist Party, he eventually moved away from their ideologies.


Foucault’s expansive research ranged from psychology to literature. His groundbreaking thesis on madness challenged its societal construct, distinguishing it from actual mental disorders.

He introduced an “archaeological” method in acclaimed works such as “Discipline and Punish” and “The History of Sexuality”.

Central to Foucault’s thought was the intricate relationship between knowledge, power and how these forces guide individual lives within institutions.

I have listed below some of the top quotes by Michel Foucault.

Best Michel Foucault Quotes

Where there is power, there is resistance. ~ Michel Foucault.

Schools serve the same social functions as prisons and mental institutions- to define, classify, control, and regulate people. ~ (Michel Foucault).

All teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power. ~ Michel Foucault.


Are the prisons overpopulated, or is the population over-imprisoned? ~ Michel Foucault.

Death left its old tragic heaven and became the lyrical core of man: his invisible truth, his visible secret. ~ Michel Foucault.

People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does. ~ (Michel Foucault).

The soul is the prison of the body. ~ (Michel Foucault).

I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. ~ (Michel Foucault).


Visibility is a trap. ~ (Michel Foucault).

There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations. ~ (Michel Foucault).

I’m no prophet. My job is making windows where there were once walls. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Maybe the target nowadays is not to discover what we are but to refuse what we are. ~ (Michel Foucault).

The ‘Enlightenment’, which discovered the liberties, also invented the disciplines. ~ Michel Foucault.

The fascism in us all that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us. ~ Michel Foucault.


Knowledge is not for knowing: knowledge is for cutting. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Absurdity destroys the and of the enumeration by making impossible the in where the things enumerated would be divided up. ~ Michel Foucault.

Top Michel Foucault Quotes

The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the social worker -judge. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Truth is not by nature free-nor error servile-its production is thoroughly imbued with relations of power. ~ (Michel Foucault).

The best moment of love is when the lover leaves in the taxi. ~ (Michel Foucault).

One must confront what one is thinking and saying with what one is doing, what one is. ~ Michel Foucault.


We are freer than we think. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Every educational system is a political means of maintaining or of modifying the appropriation of discourse, with the knowledge and the powers it carries with it. ~ Michel Foucault.

If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it? ~ Michel Foucault.

Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons? ~ (Michel Foucault).

It is meaningless to speak in the name of – or against – Reason, Truth, or Knowledge. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society. ~ (Michel Foucault).


What I seek is a permanent opening of possibilities. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same. More than one person, doubtless like me, writes in order to have no face. ~ (Michel Foucault).

As the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Famous Michel Foucault Quotes

The language of psychiatry is a monologue of reason about madness. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Truth is undoubtedly the sort of error that cannot be refuted because it was hardened into an unalterable form in the long baking process of history. ~ (Michel Foucault).

There is no binary division to be made between what one says and what one does not say; we must try to determine the different ways of not saying things. ~ (Michel Foucault).


The gaze that sees is the gaze that dominates. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Power is tolerable only on the condition that it masks a substantial part of itself. ~ Michel Foucault.

Search for what is good and strong and beautiful in your society and elaborate from there. ~ Michel Foucault.


Our society is not one of spectacle but of surveillance. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Power is tolerable only on condition that it mask a substantial part of itself. Its success is proportional to its ability to hide its own mechanisms. ~ (Michel Foucault).

The imaginary is not formed in opposition to reality as its denial or compensation; it grows among signs, from book to book, in the interstice of repetitions and commentaries; it is born and takes shape in the interval between books. It is the phenomena of the library. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write. ~ (Michel Foucault).


I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. ~ (Michel Foucault).

From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think there is only one practical consequence: we have to create ourselves as a work of art. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Popular Michel Foucault Quotes

My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Fatal necessity that reduces man to dust we pass to a contemptuous contemplation of the nothingness that is life itself. ~ Michel Foucault.

The real political task in a society is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent. ~ Michel Foucault.


Unreason is to reason as dazzlement is to daylight. ~ Michel Foucault.

I don’t write a book so that it will be the final word; I write a book so that other books are possible, not necessarily written by me. ~ (Michel Foucault).

The lyricism of marginality may find inspiration in the image of the outlaw, the great social nomad, who prowls on the confines of a docile, frightened order. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Madness, in its wild, untamable words, proclaims its own meaning; in its chimeras, it utters its secret truth. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Madness is the absolute break with the work of art; it forms the constitutive moment of abolition, which dissolves in time the truth of the work of art. ~ (Michel Foucault).

The soul is the effect and instrument of a political anatomy; the soul is the prison of the body. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Since the Fall, man had accepted labor as a penance and for its power to work redemption. It was not a law of nature which forced man to work, but the effect of a curse. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Freedom of conscience entails more dangers than authority and despotism. ~ (Michel Foucault).


Believe what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Politics and the economy are not things that exist, or illusions, or ideologies. They are things that do not exist and yet which are inscribed in reality and fall under a regime of truth dividing the true and the false. ~ (Michel Foucault).

When man deploys the arbitrary nature of his madness, he confronts the dark necessity of the world; the animal that haunts his nightmares and his nights of privation is his own nature, which will lay bare hell’s pitiless truth. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Justice must always question itself, just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions. ~ Michel Foucault.

Life itself was only futility, vain words, a squabble of cap and bells. ~ (Michel Foucault).


The strategic adversary is fascism. ~ Michel Foucault.

In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure and the police take the place of pirates. ~ (Michel Foucault).

Inspiring Michel Foucault Quotes

What desire can be contrary to nature since it was given to man by nature itself? ~ (Michel Foucault).

It might be said that all knowledge is linked to the essential forms of cruelty. ~ (Michel Foucault).

You may have killed God beneath the weight of all that you have said; but don’t imagine that, with all that you are saying, you will make a man that will live longer than he. ~ (Michel Foucault).


Truth is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it. ~ Michel Foucault.

The intellectual was rejected and persecuted at the precise moment when the facts became incontrovertible, when it was forbidden to say that the emperor had no clothes. ~ Michel Foucault.

In its function, the power to punish is not essentially different from that of curing or educating. ~ (Michel Foucault).

But the guilty person is only one of the targets of punishment. For punishment is directed above all at others, at all the potentially guilty. ~ (Michel Foucault).

The most defenseless tenderness and the bloodiest of powers have a similar need of confession. Western man has become a confessing animal. ~ (Michel Foucault).

So these were the 70 quotes about Michel Foucault.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

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