Front Page Titles (by Subject) Foucault\'s Structuralist History - Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3
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Foucault's Structuralist History - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Autumn 1980, vol. 3, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Foucault's Structuralist History
“Foucault, Structuralism, and the Ends of History.” Journal of Modern History 51(September 1979): 451–503.
Our century has witnessed a widespread rebellion against historical consciousness and, as a result, history can no longer lay claim to the central intellectual position to which it aspired in the nineteenth century. With the passing of the ideas of progress and of organic or dialectical development, a spirit of discontinuity has inclined intelligent men and women to “more relevant” disciplines.
Ironically, the French historian Michel Foucault figures among the most active leaders in the movement to demolish the historical tradition. Foucault has frequently been tagged a “structuralist” by those seeking a convenient encapsulization of his thought. Nonetheless, the protean nature of work from the Histoire de la folie (1961) to the Histoire de la sexualité (still in progress) effectively blocks any attempt at easy labelling.
In summary form, one can but outline the areas of subtle discussion of Foucault raised by Megill. Megill begins by attempting to situate Foucault within the context of the structuralist movement— along with such prominent structuralist thinkers as Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Jacques Derrida, and Jean Piaget. He distinguishes between a “structuralism of the sign,” with its insights into the nature of language, and a “structuralism of structure,” concerned with the organization and interrelation of bodies of knowledge. Foucault shares points of contact with both types of structuralism, but also transcends these categories.
Foucault rejects the traditional historian's attempts to recreate past events “as they actually occurred.” Instead, Foucault seems increasingly to favor a position in which the portrayal of the past is consciously used as a force to mold the present. This constructionist approach to history may, in part, be traced to the decisive influence of Nietzsche upon Foucault's thought. Nietzsche flatly rejected the nineteenth century cult of history with its tendency to freeze the past and, thus, also the present within rigid and lifeless Apollonian categories. The mythic, ecstatic spirit of Dionysus had been denied its rightful role in recalling the past, thus imposing the shackling “little circles” of Apollonian thought on Western history.
Prof. Megill goes on to discuss the balance of Apollonian and Dionysian elements in Foucault's work. While many Apollonian images appear in the historian's writing (vision, light, the gaze, stasis, etc.) Megill asserts that Foucault's multifaceted oeuvre reflects an essentially Dionysian spirit. The historian's fascination with the subject of madness and its leavening influence in culture is but one reflection of this preponderant mentality.