Brought to light at last—the fourth volume in the famous History of Sexuality series by one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, his final work, which he had completed, but not yet published, upon his death in 1984.
Michel Foucault’s philosophy has made an indelible impact on Western thought, and his History of Sexuality series—which traces cultural and intellectual notions of sexuality, arguing that it is profoundly shaped by the power structures applied to it—is one of his most influential works. At the time of his death in 1984, he had completed—but not yet edited or published—the fourth volume, which posits that the origins of totalitarian self-surveillance began with the Christian practice of confession. This is a text both sweeping and deeply personal, as Foucault—born into a French Catholic family—undoubtedly wrestled with these issues himself. Since he had stipulated “Pas de publication posthume,” this text has long been secreted away. The sale of the Foucault archives in 2013, however—which made this text available to scholars—prompted his nephew to seek wider publication: “What is this privilege given to Ph.D students? I have adopted this principle: It is either everybody or nobody.”
Michel Foucault was born in Poitiers, France, in 1926. He lectured in universities throughout the world; served as director at the Institut Français in Hamburg, Germany and at the Institut de Philosophie at the Faculté des Lettres in the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France; and wrote frequently for French newspapers and reviews. At the time of his death in 1984, he held a chair at France’s most prestigious institutions, the Collège de France.