Hugely influential, Michel Foucault’s work has not only impacted a diverse range of disciplines—from history and sociology to fine arts, feminism, and gay and lesbian studies—but has also profoundly shaped Western culture at a street level.
Yet until now there has been no overarching systematic approach to his work from a Reformed perspective—let alone one that is as fair and accessible as Watkin’s. After walking us through key elements of Foucault’s thought, Watkin both critiques and answers Foucault through the Bible’s teaching on history, power, and identity. His insights are necessary reading for anyone who wants to engage thoughtfully with the ideas of our culture.
Christopher Watkin (MPhil, PhD, Jesus College, Cambridge) researches and writes on modern and contemporary French thought, atheism, and religion. He lectures in French studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, blogs at christopherwatkin.com, and can be found on Twitter @DrChrisWatkin.
“If you’re not familiar with Michel Foucault, you should be. He is one of the most influential figures, if not the most influential figure, in contemporary Western culture. In this volume, Chris Watkin has accomplished what very few have even attempted. He walks us through the development of Foucault’s points of view with expert care and clarity. He also compares and contrasts these outlooks with the teachings of the New Testament in ways that challenge followers of Christ to look afresh at some of their most basic commitments. . . . I’ve been waiting for a volume like this for decades. It is essential for Christian scholars in every discipline.”
—Richard L. Pratt Jr., President, Third Millennium Ministries
“Christopher Watkin’s Michel Foucault does us an enormous double favor. It briefly and carefully outlines the main features and developments of an important twentieth-century thinker, and it brings these into conversation with a Reformed, philosophically adept account of the Bible. Watkin manages to do all this without any ‘ventriloquizing,’ of either Foucault or Scripture. He allows readers to sympathetically feel the weight of Foucault’s concerns about such things as the telling of history, the limits of cultural vision, self-transformation, and, above all, power relations, before turning to an examination of the cross of Christ that simultaneously fulfills and critiques Foucault’s ambitious aims. If God is the absolute being whose definitive self-disclosure is the humble self-giving of Jesus Christ, then individuals and communities can find in Christ an objective, normative pattern of life that neither crushes the self nor dominates others. As I reached the end of this book, I was wishing that the great atheist philosopher himself could have read this friendly interaction with his thought.”
—John Dickson, Author and Historian; Rector, St. Andrew’s Roseville; Founding Scholar, Centre for Public Christianity; Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney
“Michel Foucault is undoubtedly one of the most significant voices in our times. The twin temptation when dealing with him is either to lionize him as a unique prophet who has unmasked the way in which we all abuse power, or to dismiss him as a Nietzschean voice against truth and divine revelation. In the capable hands of Chris Watkin, Foucault does emerge as a helpful guide to how we use and abuse power, yet one who in the end is deeply flawed. Christians may safely benefit from Foucault as a cobelligerent in several areas, including social criticism, while at the same time recognize the chasm between his approach and that of the Reformed Christian worldview. An absolute treasure of a book.”
—William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary