A Framework for European Thought on Psychology, Education and Health Based on Foucault’s The Order of Things

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Carol Nash

Subject: Arts & Humanities, History Keywords: European thought; psychology; education; health; Foucault; The Order of Things; framework; narrative research

In European thought, the relationship among the fields of psychology, education, and health is both complex and obscured. Foucault’s acclaimed work, The Order of Things, offers a framework to evaluate their interconnection by identifying three distinct periods of European thought since the 16th century with respect to the ordering of phenomena—Renaissance, Classical and Modern. Theoretically dense and often difficult to decipher, the book’s categorization of language, value and being has been understandably underused, yet it provides deep insights into what have come to be known as psychology, education and health and remains invaluable in understanding the origin, limits and consequences of these fields. How Foucault’s analysis can be interpreted concerning the development of these areas as to each of the three periods of European thought is investigated. An approach based on narrative research appraises the analysis offered in the book. The results, presented for the first time in table form, compare these three periods, demonstrating a continuing practical value to Foucault’s insights. With the aid of the framework revealed by these tables, the boundaries and relationship of psychology, education and health become clear and their limitations—plus potential solutions to them—can be identified to mitigate anticipated negative consequences.


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