Stuart Elden, The Early Foucault – Polity, June 2021
The book is now published, in both hardback and paperback, and is in bookstores, though getting copies outside of the UK might still take a while. It’s available as an e-book too.
There is a piece at the Polity blog about the book here.
This is my tenth authored book, and the third in what has become a four-volume series on Foucault’s intellectual history. The Early Foucault was the hardest of the Foucault series to write, even before the pandemic made completing it very difficult. The book was maybe 95% finished before everything changed. I wrote a series of updates on the research process, which can be found here. The fourth and final book of the series is well underway, and will hopefully be completed in early 2022, though much depends on travel restrictions and getting back to the archives.
Many thanks to all at Polity for their work on bringing The Early Foucault to a successful conclusion. While it took me a bit longer to complete it, Polity have seen this through the production process with their customary efficiency. It’s a book I’m very pleased with, as it discusses some little-known parts of Foucault’s trajectory. I learned a huge amount in researching it, so I hope that some of that comes across to its readers. But of course, there will be things I don’t discuss and other things will become clearer as more research is done. The publication of early manuscripts and teaching notes will hopefully lead to more interest in this period. I hope my book is a useful map for others to follow and fill in detail.
Here’s the back cover text and the three generous endorsements:
It was not until 1961 that Foucault published his first major book, History of Madness. He had been working as an academic for a decade, publishing a few works including a short book, teaching in Lille and Paris, organizing cultural programmes and lecturing in Uppsala, Warsaw and Hamburg. Although he published little in this period, Foucault wrote much more, some of which has been preserved and only recently become available to researchers.
Drawing on archives in France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA, this is the most detailed study yet of Foucault’s early career. It recounts his debt to teachers including Louis Althusser, Jean Hyppolite, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean Wahl; his diploma thesis on Hegel; and his early teaching career. It explores his initial encounters with Georges Canguilhem, Jacques Lacan, and Georges Dumézil, and analyses his sustained reading of Friedrich Nietzsche, Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. Also included are detailed discussions of his translations of Ludwig Binswanger, Victor von Weizsäcker, and Immanuel Kant; his clinical work with Georges and Jacqueline Verdeaux; and his cultural work outside of France.
Investigating how Foucault came to write History of Madness, Stuart Elden shows this great thinker’s deep engagement with phenomenology, anthropology and psychology. An outstanding, meticulous work of intellectual history, The Early Foucault sheds new light on the formation of a major twentieth-century figure.
This book is the third of four major intellectual histories of Michel Foucault, exploring newly released archival material and covering the French thinker’s entire academic career. Foucault’s Last Decade was published by Polity in 2016; Foucault: The Birth of Power followed in 2017; and The Archaeology of Foucault will publish in the early 2020s.
‘Elden’s compendious coverage of Foucault’s intellectual career constitutes the contemporary apogee of scholarship on Foucault.’
Mark G. E. Kelly, Western Sydney University
‘This is a work of immense scholarship. Stuart Elden provides a wealth of contextual information on Foucault’s less familiar early career.’
Clare O’Farrell, Queensland University of Technology
‘Stuart Elden’s comprehensive, finely crafted investigation of the early Foucault is much more than a contribution to Foucault studies. It’s an exemplary guide to writing intellectual history.’
Michael J. Shapiro, University of Hawai’i, Manoa