Michel Foucault on education: a preliminary theoretical overview


Michel Foucault‘s work is already well-known in the field of education. His detailed studies of madness, punishment, sexuality, and  the human  sciences have provided educational theorists with a whole new array of concepts (like discipline, and problematization), analytical techniques (such as archaeology, and genealogy) and arguments (as pertaining to the intimate embrace of knowledge and power, and ways in which human subjects relate ethically to themselves and others). What is not yet well-known is that Foucault’s oeuvre as a whole incorporates within itself and offers for wider consumption a number of key educational themes. For purposes of clarity, these themes can be reduced to three, dealing with what might be called the past, present, and future of schooling, or, its development, its functions, and its prospects. These three themes can be described more accurately and specifically using some of Foucault’s own terminology:

a) An historical or ‘technico-political’ account of the rise of the school, from its negatively oriented seventeenth century origins to its more positively conceived nineteenth century entrenchment and expansion;
b) an explication of the everyday mechanics of schooling as a disciplinary technology or ‘moral orthopedics’; and
c) the implications for contemporary educational institutions and practices of a model of education as a ‘block of capacity–communication–power’.


About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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