Foucault's Nietzschean Genealogy

Truth, Power, and the Subject

By Michael Mahon

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791411506, 269 pages, September 1992
Hardcover : 9780791411490, 269 pages, September 1992

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Table of contents


1: Foucault, Nietzsche, Genealogy: An Introduction

A. An Overview

B. The Nietzschean Face of Foucault Scholarship

2: Foucault's History of Madness: An Invitation to a Nietzschean Genealogy of Morals

A. The Moral Problematization of Madness

B. The Emergence of the Three Genealogical Axes

1. The Birth of the Asylum

a. The Power Axis: The Space of Confinement

b. The Subject Axis: One Becomes Mad Because One Wants to Be

c. The Truth Axis: The Critical Experience of Madness

2. The Birth of the Clinic

a. The Power Axis: The Spatialization of Disease

b. The Truth Axis: The Verbalization of Disease

c. The Subject Axis: Death and the Individual

3: Language, Time, and the Death of Man

A. Language and Knowledge

1. The Linguistic Paralysis of Thought

2. Language in the Space of Death: Transgression

B. Time: From Classical Order to Modem History

1. From Natural History to Biology

2. From the Analysis of Wealth to Political Economy

3. From General Grammar to Philology

C. The Birth and Death of Man

1. The Birth of Man in the Age of Critique: Kant and the Analytic of Finitude

2. The Death of Man and the Realization of Critique: Nietzschean Genealogy and the Counter-Sciences

4: The Notion of Genealogy

Part I: Friedrich Nietzsche's Notion of Genealogy

A. On the Prejudices of Philosophers

B. Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals

1. Genealogy is Critique

2. Critique is Genealogical: Genealogy as History Oriented toward the Future

Part II: Michel Foucault's Notion of Genealogy

A. On the Prejudices of Philosophers

B. Foucault's Notion of Genealogy

1. Genealogy as Critique I: Toward the Realization of the Critique of Reason

2. Genealogy as Critique II: The Historical A Priori

3. Critique as Genealogical: Critique as History of the Present

C. Conclusion

5: The Practice of Genealogy: The Genealogy of the Soul

Part I: Nietzsche's Genealogy of the Soul

Part II: Foucault's Genealogy of the Modern Soul as Individuality

A. The Emergence of Humanity as Legal Limit: From Monarchical to Reform Penal Practices

B. The Solidification of Individuality

1. Surveillance and the Transformation of Space

2. Discipline and the Transformation of Time

3. Writing and Confession

6: The Genealogy of the Modern Subject

A. Nietzsche's Genealogy of the Ascetic Ideal

B. Foucault's Genealogy of the Desiring Subject: The Premodern Experience

1. The Ethical Substance: Ontology

2. The Mode of Subjection: Deontology

3. The Form of Relationship with the Self: Ascetics

4. Teleology

C. The Genealogy of the Subject: The Modern Experience

D. Genealogy as Self-Critical Enlightenment






This is the first full-length study of the impact of Friedrich Nietzsche's writings on the thought of French philosopher Michel Foucault. Focusing on the notion of genealogy in the thought of both Nietzsche and Foucault, the author explores the three genealogical axes—truth, power, and the subject—as they gradually emerge in Foucault's writings. This complex of axes into which Foucault was drawn, especially as a result of his early history of madness, called forth his explicit adoption of a Nietzschean approach to his future work.

By interpreting Foucault's Histoire de la folie in the light of Nietzsche's genealogy of tragedy, Mahon shows how the moral problematization of madness in history provides the historical conditions from which the three axes emerge. After tracing the gradual emergence of the three axes through Foucault's writings of the remainder of the 1960s, especially Les Mots et les choses, Mahon turns to Foucault's explicit methodological statements and his notion of genealogy and offers a reading of Foucault's L'archeologie du savoir, arguing that there is no chasm between Foucault's archaeological writings and his genealogies.

The work concludes with an analysis of Foucault's final writings on the genealogy of modern subjectivity and an examination of how truth, power, and the subject operate for the modern psychoanalytic subject of desire.


"There has long been a need to overcome the view that Foucault is totally unique, a philosophical eccentricity. In exploring him as a Nietzschean, Mahon meets this need in a very close reading of Foucault and one which is extremely well written.

"I regard it as very important for the world of scholarship about Foucault, but also for Nietzsche. Mahon shows that Nietzsche himself can lead to an important style of concrete critique.

"While such careful—and needed—textual analysis could be dull, the fact that the subject matter is Nietzsche and Foucault makes that careful reading fascinating in its own right. In addition to its scholarly contribution, the material is so fascinating and the text so well written that the book should appeal to a fairly general academic audience. " — James Bernauer, Boston College