Book Review: Introducing Foucault

Introducing Foucault by Chris Horrocks and Zoran Jevtic

This brief, illustrated introduction to one of the most influential intellectuals of the 20th century begins with a quote by Foucault himself: "Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same." Immediately the reader is confronted by the fact that what they learn about Foucault will be incomplete, as well as somewhat enigmatic.

With his endearing popularity in academia, this introduction is a fitting start before one tackles one of his well known treatises -- Madness and Civilization, The Order of Things, or Discipline and Punish -- that seem to pop up as references in many contemporary texts. Author Horrocks gives insight into Foucault's life and his ideas, allowing the reader to see the intersection of the two, especially the way his ideas arose and evolved over the course of his life. With Jevtic's illustrations, Foucault is humanized, though also critiqued. Horrocks points out flaws on occasion (the "lazy argument" of asking why prisons fail), and he also presents the critiques of intellectuals, like Jean-Paul Sartre and Noam Chomsky, who were challenged by Foucault's approach to history.

Foucault's ideas, positions, and terminologies are, needless to say, difficult. Rather than dumb these down, though, Horrocks admirably condenses some of these down to what can fit in a cartoon bubble. While readers obviously won't finish this short book with a complete understanding of Foucault and his ideas, they will feel acclimated to his ideas enough to take on one of his books, knowing full well that the text's author was neither omniscient nor without an insatiable thirst for both knowledge and pleasure.