The Order of Things

The Order of Things (French original title: . Les Mots et les choses archéologie Une des sciences humaines ) is a 1966 published philosophical and historical essay by Michel Foucault, the history of science or epistemology and discourse theory.

The author wants to explicitly provide no history of sciences. It's him instead to the analysis of unconscious basic settings of the scientific workers in the period from the Renaissance to Foucault's time. He looks for these five centuries no continuity in the scientific question, but two complete ruptures, once in the first half of the 17th century and the other time around the year in 1800. Foucault's investigations indicate which completely new thinking on three characteristic areas of knowledge: Human language, diversity of living things and the economy of the people.

The second chapter is the mindset of the Renaissance ( in France: the 16th century ) dedicated. The former researchers are looking for externally obvious similarities between things, the principle can be located in the entire universe. The analogies between macrocosm and microcosm, for example, one of the leading ideas.

In Chapters 3 to 6 Foucault shows for the classical age in France in the 17th and 18th century ( the era, so to speak ) the scientific effort to complete overviews of all knowledge in a kind of tableau. Tags are taxonomy and classification. The previous accumulation of inherently inaccurate similarity relations is no longer enough; Instead, in the mood for unique " identities or differences". This means for the investigation of its own national language, a so-called " general grammar ": words and phrases are the exact things " represent " a verbal order to map these world things clear features. Naturalists themselves develop the ordinary, fixed nomenclatures, where every living thing is assigned its precise location ( examples: the work of Carl von Linné ). According to the analysis of these riches will now be accurately expressed in monetary terms (whether it is the theories of mercantilism or physiocrats ).

Chapters 7 and 8 illustrate how emerging around 1800 instead of the "general" grammar, the so-called " natural history " and the traditional analysis of wealth fundamentally new science, namely philology, the actual biology and political economy. The philologists now examine very closely the functioning of different languages ​​with their conjugation and declension endings, with historical sound shifts and Ablautreihen. So they recognize the historicity and kinship of languages. Biologists no longer rigid superficial differences of the animals, but they compare anatomical and investigate their hidden organ systems. They also notice the historicity of life. Economists finally discover the central importance of human labor as the source of each value and at the same time the historical forms of production. So advances at this time more and more of the man himself - as the one who speaks and lives and works - in the field of view of the researchers.

It was only in the 9th and 10th (and last) chapter comes Foucault therefore to humans as a scientific subject and to the emerging in the 19th century " human sciences " to speak of which is mentioned in the subtitle of the book, and by which Foucault Psychology, sociology and culture, ideas, and history of science understands. Linguistics, ethnology and psychoanalysis: In the 20th century other forms of knowledge are constituted. These show the one hand the really anonymous structures of languages ​​and cultures, and on the other hand the unconscious in the actions of the people, so from a free, self-determined individual or a sovereign subject can be discussed any more. Therefore, Foucault speaks in the last words of the book of the disappearance of the people " as the seashore a face in the sand. "

"This book should not be read as symptomatological, but as a comparative study. I did not intend to draw on the basis of a certain knowledge type or idea body image a time or to reconstruct the spirit of a century. Rather, I wanted very specific elements - the knowledge of living things, the laws of language and economic relationships - for a period extending from the 17th to the 19th century, represent, and bring them into a relationship with the philosophical discourse of the time. "

The underlying discourse analytical method has repeatedly later Foucault - most extensively in The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969 ) - represented.