Foucault on Freud

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Despite being what is commonly regarded as major influence on Michel Foucault, Freud and psychoanalysis are rarely directly addressed in his works. A notable exception, often cited, is towards the very end of ‘Madness & Civilization’ . Where the early Foucault ends his thesis proposing the conception of madness as social structure with back handed praise by of Freud’s re-engagement with madness via dialogue. Madness, from the mid 1600’s onwards was ignored or 'silenced’ from its ‘zero-point’ of separation as a distinct group from the social mainstream. Foucault’s hand swings quickly back however, as mere lines later Freud is criticized for; maintaining- in fact amplifying- the unbalanced power of the physician-patient relationship, reinforcing the ‘judging’ and ‘alienating’ figure of the doctor essential to psychoanalytic practice; and retaining much in its conception from religious and medical tradition. Foucault sees these traditions as means of exercising social control, and psychoanalysis is regarded as consistent with them in this disciplining respect. We will look at two aspects of psychoanalytic thought addressing this continuance of traditional authority, and conclude with a comparison of the two philosopher’s differing conceptions of the object of psychoanalysis- human mentality.
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