Aaron Zielinski, The Imaginary Force of History: On Images, the Imaginary, and Myths in Foucault’s Early Works (2022)

An interesting piece making use of some recently published manuscripts, notably Phénoménologie et psychologie, to shed light on Foucault’s History of Madness.

Foucault News

Aaron Zielinski (2022) The Imaginary Force of History: On images, the Imaginary, and Myths in Foucault’s Early Works, Critical Review, Published online: 09 Dec 2022

DOI: 10.1080/08913811.2022.2151709

In manuscripts and unpublished articles written in the 1950s, Foucault developed a notion of myth that was intimately linked to what he called “imaginary forces,” a notion that he framed as a new critical approach. Its most important functions lie in exposing how mythological narratives naturalize social processes, and in developing a skeptical stance towards the allegedly liberating function of truth. This notion of myth is central in History of Madness, but it features most prominently in a passage that was omitted from the first English translation. Here, Foucault criticizes the narrative that Enlightenment psychiatry told about its own origins, which naturalized social processes. The young Foucault’s notion of myth is strikingly similar to the Marxist notion of second nature.

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