The Order of Things, by Foucault -What the hell is he talking about? Can someone explain in layman's terms what Foucault was saying here? I've read a few chapters so far of The Order and it seems wordy and pretentious and it seems to me that he's taking all this time and effort just to say that the human sciences are different from other sciences in that self-reflection or interpretation by man/woman is a neccessary component, whereas natural sciences operate independently of an idividual "offering himself a representation" of what's going on. Am I way off here? Also, what's with the constant repeat in the book about "life, labour, and language"? As much as this is referred to in the book, I kind of don't know what the heck he's talking about. I have to go in to class tomorrow ready to be able to explain a bit about what I've read and I'd like to be able to know what Foucault means by his constant repetition of "life, labour, and language" in relation to human sciences. I have been looking up information online about The Order of Things and Foucault, but so far I've found many differing opinions about the book and none of them seemed to describe the message I got out of the book. So I'm guessing I'm a bit off target with what I got out of it. Please help. Thanks.

By: Guest
Date: Tue-May-18-2010-

Answer 1

Magician's answer is good, but doesn't really target the questions implied in your explanation of the question.

IN GENERAL: The Order of Things is a post-structuralist treatise on the relationship between the living structures (i.e. ideational culture) of the human or historical sciences and the work of the human or historical sciences. You're interpretation is appropriate to this point, but it is important also to realize that Foucault is not really very interested in 'authenticity', parsimony or empirical reality under the criteria of science (and doesn't necessarily understand the philosophical underpinnings of science from the 'insider' perspective of the sciences - a more clear and 'internalist' discussion of this same set of issues can be found in Thomas Kuhn's classic "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". Instead, Foucault is interested in representations themselves, the history of representations and the history of ideas. Don't make the mistake of assuming that Foucault is in the "anti-science" camp of post-structuralism - he really wasn't.

More specifically, yes, it is the reflexive quality of social science discourse which Foucault wants to locate and expose within the history of ideas/representations in the human/historical sciences.

It's been a long time since I tackled this book, but if I remember correctly, Foucault uses "life labor and language" to allude to daily practice in the ideology industry (i.e. social science) as an ideational structure within which practitioners are constrained and influenced. Language is, of course, one of the major methods of imposing this constraint because of its inherent essentialisms (i.e. there is a lot that can not be "said" accurately)

Answer 2

The Order of Things (original title: Les Mots et les choses, French for Words and Things) is a book written by Michel Foucault and was published in 1966. The Order of Things brought Foucault to prominence as an intellectual figure in France.

The book develops its central claim: that all periods of history have possessed certain underlying conditions of truth that constituted what was acceptable as, for example, scientific discourse. Foucault argues that these conditions of discourse have changed over time, in major and relatively sudden shifts, from one period's episteme to another.

Foucault's critique in Les mots et les choses has been very influential to cultural history. The various consciousness shifts that he points out in the first chapters of the book have led several scholars to scrutinize the bases for knowledge in our present day as well as critiquing the projection of modern categories of knowledge onto subjects that remain intrinsically unintelligible, in spite of historical knowledge.

[d] By: Guest
Date: Unknown---
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