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Foucault and the Welfare State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 October 2005

Department of History, University of California, 405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 900–95–1446, USA. E-mail:


Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilization (1961) offers a comparison between two types of answers to the same social problems: unemployment, poverty and crime. In the earlier centuries exclusion was the answer. The French Hopital General (1656) replaced it by containment. The institution was a combination of a hospital and jail and offered a solution by isolating insane, unemployed and criminal people at the expense of the society. The 20th century welfare state has a different answer to the same questions. This is, however, challenged by financial limitations. Foucault offers a solution by combining social security and individual autonomy, which was not considered to be important before.

Research Article
© Academia Europaea 2005

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