A “refusal of history”? On the status of history in the reception of Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things
Keywords:Michel Foucault, Jean-Paul Sartre, Praxis
The publication of The Order of Things in 1966 gave rise to intense controversy about the status of history within the book. This polemic has the particularity of having taken place beyond the scholarly and institutional sphere of the history of science or philosophy, giving rise to numerous reviews in numerous journals, academic or not. We try to show that one of the axes structuring this polemic, articulated around the figure of Sartre, finds its space of emergence in terms of the epistemological status accorded to history. Two divergent conceptions of history are in fact opposed, the one supported by Sartre, which we qualify as practical anthropological, and the one retained by Foucault, postulating the epistemological autonomy of the object within a structuralist horizon. We show that the status of discontinuity is also implicated in the background of this polemic.