Is there anything on early to mid Foucault and structuralism? I've just started The Archeology of Knowledge, meant to be I think the bookend of his early writings, and he is going to some lengths to make sure the reader believes he's not basing his analysis on structuralism. Seems like he's saying it's from the analysis of history instead. That makes sense, but I wondered

  1. who else seems to be be drawing from Saussure but denies it?
  2. has anyone claimed that Foucault's analysis here is in fact just watered down structuralism?

I'm planning on reading a fair amount on Foucault, so don't bother suggesting primers unless you have a specific part of one in mind!

  • Structuralism is a Platonic move. It's Plato repackaged. So you might want to determine when Foucault first engaged seriously with Nietzsche. Was it in University? I don't know. But with Nietzsche it's hard to see how we have Plato.
    – Gordon
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:06
  • Now at any time you "stop" take a snapshot and do an analysis, then structuralism could be employed. But not for all time.
    – Gordon
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:09
  • (Nietzsche=genealogy, "archeology", history.).
    – Gordon
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:17
  • yeah, i liked foucault on nietzsche @Gordon adds clarity, answers questions, etc.!
    – confused
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:18
  • My Foucault is rusty. We don't seem to get many questions about him here. That does not mean he's not interesting. Maybe someone will come along who knows his philosophy well. Maybe you could also try Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online, or IEP online. iep.utm.edu/foucault
    – Gordon
    Nov 19, 2018 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


A good place to start is the two volume Histoire du Structuralisme (1991/2) by F. Dosse: it provides a context and a few chapters on Foucault in both books. In the late 70's quite a few people claimed to have always been "post-structuralists" but many of them, including Foucault, earlier were just "structuralists", a rather laudatory or at least fashionable description at that time. So in older and even (out)dated writings connecting Foucault to structuralism is better evidenced; there is a 3pages double column bibliography from 73 by Lapointe. An interesting paper by Allan Megill from 1979:

[But] the passage from archaeology to genealogy was delayed, I shall argue, by his traversal of structuralism-a traversal that obscured, both for him and for us, the true nature of his historical vocation. The conflict, in the interior of the Foucaultian text, between structuralism and antistructuralism, between Apollo and Dionysos, even-if one will-between Plato and Nietzsche, has from all points of view been the most interesting and most revealing theme in Foucault's work to date. It is, furthermore, a theme that we must grasp if we are to understand the changing presuppositions that have underlain Foucault' s various historical writings

Dosse F., History of Structuralism, Minnesota UP (1998)

Lapointe (1973) Michel Foucault. A Bibliographic Essay, J. of the British Society for Phenomenology, 4:2, 195-7

Megill A, Foucault, Structuralism, and the Ends of History, J. of Modern History, Vol. 51, No. 3 (Sep., 1979), pp. 451-503

  • @confused I upvoted it.
    – Gordon
    Nov 19, 2018 at 19:37

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