The Lure of Death

The Lure of Death

James Miller has provided us with a luminously intelligent biography of Michel Foucault. Miller, a former book and music critic for Newsweek and the author of an outstanding history of Students for a Democratic Society in its predogmatic phase (“Democracy is in the Streets”: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago), has applied his scholarly and journalistic talent to a subject of daunting scope: the relationship between life and work in the “philosophical life” of Michel Foucault.

Miller’s biography of Foucault is a book that has been much heralded and, by some, much feared. Given the status Foucault has enjoyed in American academic circles, there are many with vested scholarly interests who are made nervous at the thought that the master’s luster might be tarnished. For close to two decades, in the wake of the New Left’s demise, left-wing scholarly energies that were once preoccupied with the problems of capitalism, imperialism, class, race, human rights, and emancipation have been sublimated along poststructuralist lines.

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