Australian Left Review

Article Title

Foucault of Many Colours


Peter Beilharz


Who is Michel Foucault? Or rather, who was Foucault? They are, in fact, two very different questions, or at least questions with different answers. Foucault is, for many today, the voice of critical theory. For undergraduates in the 1990s he is the equivalent of Marcuse in the 1960s: the theorist as rebel, defiant, nay-saying. His bestknown work—'the prisons book', Discipline and Punish— has many parallels to Marcuse's best-seller, One Dimensional Man (1964). Most strikingly, both are books which paint a black world with a red stripe, or adorn it with a black flag. Both are libertarian attacks on a world cast as totalitarian.