Abnormal:Lectures at the Collége de France, 1974–1975

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Michel Foucault remains the essential philosopher of the modern world

Three decades after his death, Michel Foucault remains one of the towering intellectual figures of the last half-century. His works on sexuality, madness, the prison, and medicine are enduring classics. From 1971 until his death in 1984, Foucault gave public lectures at the famous Collège de France. These seminal events, attended by thousands, created the benchmarks for contemporary social enquiry. The lectures comprising Abnormal begin by examining the role of psychiatry in modern criminal justice, and its method of categorising individuals who “resemble their crime before they commit it.” Building on the themes of societal self-defence developed in earlier works, Foucault shows how defining “normality” became a prerogative of power in the nineteenth century, shaping the institutions—from the prisons to the family—meant to deal with “monstrosity,” whether sexual, physical, or spiritual. The Collège de France lectures add immeasurably to our appreciation and understanding of Foucault’s thought.


  • Abnormal make[s] a compelling case that practices of confinement, medico-legal judgement, and sexual normalization have been constituted within struggles for scientific power and control.

    Notre Dame Philosophical Review
  • The volume allows us to observe Foucault in the laboratory, at the threshold of a major re-orientation...indispensable reading for anybody interested in the history of medicine, psychiatry, sexuality, or the fluctuations of Foucault's thinking.

    Medical History Journal
  • These lecture courses are valuable for Foucault scholarship not only because they supplement the arguments given by Foucault in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality but also because there are topics that come to the foreground in the lectures in a way that goes beyond the published texts.

    Foucault Studies Journal