Archaeological Methodology: Foucault and the History of Systems of Thought

Troels Krarup*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Existing accounts of Foucault’s archaeological methodology have not (a) contextualized the concept properly within the intellectual field of its emergence and (b) explained why it is called ‘archaeology’ and not simply ‘history’. Foucault contributed to the field of ‘history of systems of thought’ in France around 1960 by broadening its scope from the study of scientific and philosophical systems into systems of ‘knowledge’ in a wider sense. For Foucault, the term ‘archaeology’ provided a response to new methodological questions arising from this initiative. Archaeological methodology had already been developed into a distinct comparative approach for the study of linguistic and cultural systems, notably by Dumézil. Foucault redevised archaeological methodology for the post-Hegelian tradition of studying ‘problems’ prevalent in the history of systems of thought. The article thus furnishes the groundwork for a ‘sociological archaeology’ or ‘problem analysis’ that is not particularly dependent on Foucault as a social theorist of power.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTheory, Culture and Society
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • archaeology
  • Foucault
  • French epistemological school
  • history of systems of thought
  • methodology
  • problem analysis
  • problematization


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