Michel Foucault — Beyond Good and Evil: 1993 Documentary Explores the Theorist’s Controversial Life and Philosophy

Michel Foucault’s col­or­ful life and huge­ly influ­en­tial work were both strug­gles against limitation—the lim­its of lan­guage, of social struc­tures and stul­ti­fy­ing his­tor­i­cal iden­ti­ties. As such, he man­aged to pro­voke schol­ars of every pos­si­ble per­sua­sion, since he called into ques­tion all pos­i­tive programs—the ancient impe­r­i­al, feu­dal, and lib­er­al humanist—while stead­fast­ly refus­ing to replace them with com­pre­hen­sive alter­na­tive sys­tems. And yet sys­tems, social insti­tu­tions of pow­er and dom­i­na­tion, were pre­cise­ly the prob­lem in Foucault’s esti­ma­tion. Through his tech­nique of raid­ing archives to pro­duce an “archae­ol­o­gy of knowl­edge,” Fou­cault showed how every insti­tu­tion is shot through with what William E. Con­nol­ly calls “arbi­trary… sys­temic cru­el­ty.”

The 1993 doc­u­men­tary film above, Michel Fou­cault: Beyond Good and Evil, explores the philoso­pher and his com­plex and con­tro­ver­sial life through inter­views with col­leagues and biog­ra­phers and re-enact­ments of Foucault’s sto­ried exploits in the Amer­i­can coun­ter­cul­ture. Biog­ra­ph­er James Miller points out that Fou­cault was “pre­oc­cu­pied with explor­ing states that were beyond nor­mal every­day expe­ri­ence… drugs, cer­tain forms of eroti­cism,” as a way to “recon­fig­ure the world and his place in it.” In this, says anthro­pol­o­gist Paul Rabi­now, Fou­cault sought to res­ur­rect the ques­tions that sober ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy had large­ly aban­doned: ques­tions about what it means to be human, beyond the social cat­e­gories we take as nat­ur­al and giv­en.

You can find Michel Fou­cault: Beyond Good and Evil list­ed in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

via Crit­i­cal The­o­ry

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Michel Fou­cault: Free Lec­tures on Truth, Dis­course & The Self

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chom­sky & Michel Fou­cault Debate Human Nature & Pow­er on Dutch TV, 1971

John Sear­le on Fou­cault and the Obscu­ran­tism in French Phi­los­o­phy

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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