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James Miller’s Passion of Michel Foucault

OF ALL THE INTELLECTUAL PROJECTS that have come to strange life in the last thirty years, and there have been many, none is more profoundly enigmatic than Michel Foucault’s. Before his death from AIDS, in 1984, the French philosopher created a body of work fundamental to contemporary thought. His works summoned up a dream world of triumphant madness, glorious violence, and nameless moral transgressions too intense for reason to comprehend. A disciple of Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, and the Marquis de Sade, obsessed with extremity in every form—artistic, ethical, sexual, criminal—Foucault epitomized the dark, dangerous philosopher of our cryptic modernity.

Meticulously outlining the rise of what he called “the society of normalization,” Foucault launched a savage assault on the Enlightenment, on liberalism, on the humanist belief in progress. He rejected the most cherished ideas of modernity—the

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