Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth

Published by Tavistock Publications (now Routledge) in hardback and paperback in 1980. Reprinted several times, still in print.

Michel Foucault is widely regarded as one of the most original and most important thinkers writing today. Few educated readers are now in any doubt as to who he is. Yet fewer, perhaps, could give an adequate account of what he is. He studied and has taught philosophy, but he is not a philosopher. He has also studied psychology and psychiatry, but the search for scientific understanding proved as illusory as the philosophical quest. He is not a propounder of theories. He is a ‘genealo­gist' in Nietzsche's sense, a historian of thought who writes from and for the present. Any attempt to see Foucault whole presents quite special difficulties.

From the dazzling tour de force of Madness and Civilization to his latest enterprise, the six-volume History of Sexuality, he has produced a series of works of bewildering scope. Yet there is coherence as well as change in Foucault's oeuvre. His task has been nothing less than an investigation of Western man's will to knowledge and truth, which, as he demonstrates, is also a will to power, exercised over the body as well as over the mind.

This is the first full-length study of Foucault in any language. It covers the whole of his work to date, including material unavailable in English, and provides invaluable infor­mation on recent French intellectual history. Foucault emerges as an essential thinker for our time: his ‘political anatomy' implies a radical critique not only of established intellectual positions and social institutions, but also of most of the alternatives offered by the opposition.


RICHARD RORTY / LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS: ‘A lucid but very sophisticated account of the trajectory of Foucault's thinking so far... The reader who wants to get the philosophical implications clearly laid out will find just what he wants in Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth.'

COLIN BELL / NEW SOCIETY: ‘A significant achievement by any standards... Foucault is now better served than most Parisian intellectuals have been... Sheridan is a totally reliable guide. His bibliography of primary and secondary materials is worth publishing on its own'.

ANTHONY STORR / THE SUNDAY TIMES: ‘Alan Sheridan's brilliant advocacy of Foucault's thought... is invaluable to anyone studying him.'

P.N. FURBANK / THE LISTENER: ‘Valuable study… Ends with a most admirable chapter of commentary, giving the clearest account I have yet read of intellectual movements in France since 1945.'