The book received a mixed reception, with some reviewers praising it and others criticizing Foucault's scholarship. The idea that sexuality, including homosexuality, is a social construction is associated more with The History of Sexuality than with any other work. In Part One, Foucault discusses the "repressive hypothesis", the widespread belief among late 20th-century westerners that sexuality, and the open discussion of sex, was socially repressed during the late 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, a by-product of the rise of capitalism and bourgeois society, before the partial liberation of sexuality in modern times.
Arguing that sexuality was never truly repressed, Foucault asks why modern westerners believe the hypothesis, noting that in portraying past sexuality as repressed, it provides a basis for the idea that in rejecting past moral systems, future sexuality can be free and uninhibited, a " In Part Two, Foucault notes that from the 17th century to the s, there had actually been a " He argues that this desire to talk so enthusiastically about sex in the western world stems from the Counter-Reformation , when the Roman Catholic Church called for its followers to confess their sinful desires as well as their actions.
As evidence for the obsession of talking about sex, he highlights the publication of the book My Secret Life , anonymously written in the late 19th century and detailing the sex life of a Victorian gentleman. Indeed, Foucault states that at the start of the 18th century, there was an emergence of " He notes that in that century, governments became increasingly aware that they were not merely having to manage "subjects" or "a people" but a " population ", and that as such they had to concern themselves with such issues as birth and death rates, marriage, and contraception, thereby increasing their interest and changing their discourse on sexuality.
Foucault argues that prior to the 18th century, discourse on sexuality focuses on the productive role of the married couple, which is monitored by both canonical and civil law.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, he argues, society ceases discussing the sex lives of married couples, instead taking an increasing interest in sexualities that did not fit within this union; the "world of perversion" that includes the sexuality of children, the mentally ill, the criminal and the homosexual.
He notes that this had three major effects on society.
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Firstly, there was increasing categorization of these "perverts"; where previously a man who engaged in same-sex activities would be labeled as an individual who succumbed to the sin of sodomy , now they would be categorised into a new "species," that of homosexual. Secondly, Foucault argues that the labeling of perverts conveyed a sense of "pleasure and power" on to both those studying sexuality and the perverts themselves.
Thirdly, he argues that bourgeois society exhibited "blatant and fragmented perversion," readily engaging in perversity but regulating where it could take place. In part three, Foucault explores the development of the scientific study of sex, the attempt to unearth the "truth" of sex, a phenomenon which Foucault argues is peculiar to the West. In contrast to the West's sexual science, Foucault introduces the ars erotica , which he states has only existed in Ancient and Eastern societies. Furthermore, he argues that this scientia sexualis has repeatedly been used for political purposes, being utilized in the name of "public hygiene" to support state racism.
Returning to the influence of the Catholic confession, he looks at the relationship between the confessor and the authoritarian figure that he confesses to, arguing that as Roman Catholicism was eclipsed in much of Western and Northern Europe following the Reformation , the concept of confession survived and became more widespread, entering into the relationship between parent and child, patient and psychiatrist and student and educator.
By the 19th century, he maintains, the "truth" of sexuality was being readily explored both through confession and scientific enquiry. Foucault proceeds to examine how the confession of sexuality then comes to be "constituted in scientific terms," arguing that scientists begin to trace the cause of all aspects of human psychology and society to sexual factors. In part four, Foucault explores the question as to why western society wishes to seek for the "truth" of sex.
Foucault argues that we need to develop an "analytics" of power through which to understand sex. Highlighting that power controls sex by laying down rules for it to follow, he discusses how power demands obedience through domination, submission, and subjugation, and also how power masks its true intentions by disguising itself as beneficial.
As an example, he highlights the manner in which the feudal absolute monarchies of historical Europe, themselves a form of power , disguised their intentions by claiming that they were necessary to maintain law, order, and peace.
As a leftover concept from the days of feudalism , Foucault argues that westerners still view power as emanating from law, but he rejects this, proclaiming that we must " Foucault explains that he does not mean power as the domination or subjugation exerted on society by the government or the state. Rather, power should be understood "as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate. Foucault criticizes Wilhelm Reich , writing that while an important "historico-political" critique of sexual repression formed around Reich, "the very possibility of its success was tied to the fact that it always unfolded within the deployment of sexuality, and not outside or against it.
In part five, Foucault asserts that the motivations for power over life and death have changed. As in feudal times the "right to life" was more or less a "right to death" because sovereign powers were able to decide when a person died. This has changed to a "right to live," as sovereign states are more concerned about the power of how people live.
Power becomes about how to foster life. For example, a state decides to execute someone as a safe guard to society not as justified, as it once was, as vengeful justice. This new emphasis on power over life is called Biopower and comes in two forms. First, Foucault says it is "centered on the body as a machine: its disciplining, the optimization of its capabilities, the extortion of its forces, the parallel increase of its usefulness and its docility, its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls.
In this volume, Foucault discusses "the manner in which sexual activity was problematized by philosophers and doctors in classical Greek culture of the fourth century B. Other authors whose work is discussed include Galen , Plutarch , and Pseudo-Lucian. Foucault describes the Oneirocritica as a "point of reference" for his work, one that exemplifies a common way of thinking.
Three volumes of The History of Sexuality were published before Foucault's death in The work was a further development of the account of the interaction of knowledge and power Foucault provided in Discipline and Punish According to Arnold Davidson , the back cover of the first volume announced that there would be five forthcoming volumes: Volume 2, The Flesh and the Body , would "concern the prehistory of our modern experience of sexuality, concentrating on the problematization of sex in early Christianity "; Volume 3, The Children's Crusade , would discuss "the sexuality of children, especially the problem of childhood masturbation "; Volume 4, Woman, Mother, Hysteric , would discuss "the specific ways in which sexuality had been invested in the female body"; Volume 5, Perverts , was "planned to investigate exactly what the title named"; and Volume 6, Population and Races , was to examine "the way in which treatises, both theoretical and practical, on the topics of population and race were linked to the history" of " biopolitics.
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The latter volume deals considerably with the ancient technological development of the hypomnema which was used to establish a permanent relationship to oneself. Both were published in , the year of Foucault's death, the second volume being translated in , and the third in The fourth volume, Confessions of the Flesh was published posthumously in despite Foucault explicitly disallowing posthumous publication of his works Pas de publication posthume.
Foucault's family decided that as the material was already partially accessible, it should be published for everyone to read. In his lecture series from to Foucault extended his analysis of government to its " These themes of early Christian literature seemed to dominate Foucault's work, alongside his study of Greek and Roman literature, until the end of his life. The planned fourth volume of The History of Sexuality was accordingly entitled Confessions of the Flesh Les aveux de la chair , addressing Christianity.
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However, Foucault's death left the work incomplete, and the publication was delayed due to the restrictions of Foucault's estate. It was edited and finally published in February The sociologist Stephen O. Murray wrote in the Archives of Sexual Behavior that a passage of The History of Sexuality in which Foucault discussed how European medical discourse of the late 19th century had classified homosexuals had "clouded the minds" of many social historical theorists and researchers, who had produced a "voluminous discourse" that ignored how homosexuals had been classified before the late 19th century or non-European cultures.
He credited Foucault with inspiring "genealogical" studies "informed by the heuristic idea that not only are patterns of sexual desire and behavior socially engineered He credited Simone de Beauvoir with anticipating Foucault's view that patterns of sexual desire and behavior are socially determined. The historian Jane Caplan called The History of Sexuality "certainly the most ambitious and interesting recent attempt to analyse the relations between the production of concepts and the history of society in the field of sexuality", but criticized Foucault for using an "undifferentiated concept" of speech and an imprecise notion of "power".
Merquior considered the second two volumes of The History of Sexuality to be of higher scholarly quality than the first, and found Foucault to be "original and insightful" in his discussion of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and other Stoics in The Care of the Self. However, he found the details of Foucault's views open to question, and suggested that Foucault's discussion of Greek pederasty is less illuminating than that of Kenneth Dover , despite Foucault's references to Dover's Greek Homosexuality The philosopher Roger Scruton rejected Foucault's claim that sexual morality is culturally relative in Sexual Desire He also criticized Foucault for assuming that there could be societies in which a "problematisation" of the sexual did not occur.
Scruton concluded that, "No history of thought could show the 'problematisation' of sexual experience to be peculiar to certain specific social formations: it is characteristic of personal experience generally, and therefore of every genuine social order. The philosopher Judith Butler argued in Gender Trouble that the theory of power Foucault expounds in the first volume of The History of Sexuality is to some extent contradicted by Foucault's subsequent discussion of the journals of Herculine Barbin, a 19th-century French hermaphrodite: whereas in the former work Foucault asserts that sexuality is coextensive with power, in Herculine Barbin he "fails to recognize the concrete relations of power that both construct and condemn Herculine's sexuality", instead romanticizing Barbin's world of pleasure as the "happy limbo of a non-identity", and expressing views akin to those of Marcuse.
Butler further argued that this conflict is evident within The History of Sexuality , noting that Foucault refers there to "bucolic" and "innocent" sexual pleasures that exist prior to the imposition of "regulative strategies". The classicist David M. Halperin claimed in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality that the appearance of the English translation of the first volume of Foucault's work in , together with the publication of Dover's Greek Homosexuality the same year, marked the beginning of a new era in the study of the history of sexuality.
Paglia wrote that much of The History of Sexuality is fantasy unsupported by the historical record, and that it "is acknowledged even by Foucault's admirers to be his weakest work".
The classicist Bruce Thornton wrote that The Use of Pleasure was, "usually quite readable, surveying the ancient evidence to make some good observations about the various techniques developed to control passion", but faulted Foucault for limiting his scope to "fourth-century medical and philosophical works". The psychoanalyst Joel Whitebook argued that while Foucault proposes that "bodies and pleasures" should be the rallying point against "the deployment of sexuality", "bodies and pleasures", like other Foucauldian terms, is a notion with "little content. Scruton wrote in that, contrary to Foucault's claims, the ancient texts Foucault examines in The Use of Pleasure are not primarily about sexual pleasure.
Nevertheless, he found the second two volumes of The History of Sexuality more scholarly than Foucault's previous work. Scruton concluded, of the work in general, that it creates an impression of a "normalized" Foucault: "His command of the French language, his fascination with ancient texts and the by-ways of history, his flamboyant imagination and beautiful style - all have been put, at last, to a proper use, in order to describe the human condition respectfully, and to cease to look for the secret 'structures' beneath its smile.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the history article, see History of human sexuality. The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February The New York Times. Altman, Dennis The Homosexualization of America. Boston: Beacon Press. Bernasconi, Robert Honderich, Ted ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Burkert, Walter Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. Butler, Judith Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.
New York: Routledge. And we today essentially know at least a snippet of the information, about almost every one of them. This has gone much more rapidly than people thought when the genome project was started because the technology got better. So we have a complete parts list almost to the human, and we do have a complete parts list for about 10 to 15 simple organisms. But we do know that extremely subtle differences in those parts have dramatic consequences, and that the spectrum of these differences is 30much more elaborate and complicated than anybody thought in when all this started.
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