Philosophy / The Apparatus Of Power And Sexuality In FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢S Philosophy
The Apparatus Of Power And Sexuality In FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢S PhilosophyThis essay The Apparatus Of Power And Sexuality In FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢S Philosophy is available for you on Essays24.com! Search Term Papers, College Essay Examples and Free Essays on Essays24.com - full papers database.
Autor: anton 15 November 2010
Words: 5683 | Pages: 23
A political theorist once claimed that one should be most critical of ideas that have been deemed normal or scientific. For the most part, these notions that have been branded as Ð²Ð‚Ñšfacts of lifeÐ²Ð‚Ñœ carry with them several nuisances and drawbacks that people often ignore or fail to see since they are primarily held by many as irreplaceable truths. Unfortunately, such non-examined concepts are normalized in the level of human consciousness and in effect, rendering the individual a myopic perspective of reality. This has been the context by which Michel Foucault built his overall frameworks of thought. As a philosopher and cultural historian, Foucault underscored in his writings that the fundamental ideas that people commonly consider as the permanent truths of their being have changed throughout the course of history. Without a doubt, with his unorthodox contemplations on the disciplinary society and the distortions of human sexuality, Michel FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s influence to the postmodernist movement and contemporary philosophical thought is undeniably significant and of great magnitude.
The concept of power is the overriding principle of FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s philosophy. FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s philosophical equation has power as the Ð²Ð‚Ñšprinciple of development and integration within our society.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Power is often defined as the relation between two people or parties wherein one influences the otherÐ²Ð‚â„¢s set of behaviors and actions. In essence, it entails the restraint, obstruction or modification of oneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s personal will by subjecting his individual faculties. But Foucault, for the most part, is not adhering to such strict definitions. He once asserted that Ð²Ð‚Ñšthe only thing that could be said about power in general is that it is an open-ended, more or less coordinated Ð²Ð‚?cluster of relations.Ð²Ð‚â„¢ For him, there is no evident meaning or particular description that can capture the extent of such concept. Nevertheless, the fact remains that power is an omnipresent element in both micro-level relationships, as well as, in the macro plane of societies. Without a doubt, in FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s analysis, power is exercised in various forms, settings and circumstances.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšInstead of portraying power as the property of any particular group or institution, Foucault preferred to describe it as a heterogeneous ensemble of strategies and techniques. He was thus skeptical of any approach, which mapped power onto an abstract model of class relations..
..Rather than confining his analysis to key institutions such as the state, he emphasized that power took many forms, often at its most effective where is was least visible. He remarked that Ð²Ð‚Ñšwe must escape from the limited field of juridical sovereignty and state institutions, and instead base our analysis of power on the study of the techniques and tactics of domination.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
Moreover, there is a prevalent understanding that power is a subtractive force that only deal with dirty politics and endless enmities and struggles. However, Foucault declares the contrary. He highlights the fact that power is more than the negativity it is commonly associated with. In more ways than one, power could operate as a positive force that can form the entirety of subjects. By the same token, in a January 1976 lecture, Foucault echoes the same sentiment by saying that Ð²Ð‚Ñšpower [should be considered], if properly speaking, as the way in which relations of forces are deployed and given concrete expression rather than analyzing it in terms of cession, contract, alienation, struggle, conflict or war.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ In the end, although Foucault is admitting that power has an inclination towards dispute and strife, he Ð²Ð‚Ñšunderscores its distinctness from domination, in which the Ð²Ð‚?free playÐ²Ð‚â„¢ of plurality of agents has given way to the Ð²Ð‚?stable mechanismsÐ²Ð‚â„¢ of a single dominant agent.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ In effect, the target of power is never forced, victimized or rendered useless.
In Discipline and Punish, Foucault created a blueprint for the evolution of power relationships in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries characterized primarily by a theoretical shift from a mere concentration on the body towards focusing more on the soul. He explores the changing frameworks of power in the course of history through a social analysis of the developing techniques of penalizing offenses and circumscribed his interpretations in a particular genealogy of power. In spite of the fact that Foucault only includes in his philosophical equation the modifications of corrective measures in the judicial system, his ideas also transcend into the social realm. For the most part, his genealogy is also relevant to the power mechanisms existing within modern societies.
Portraying the common power relationships characteristic of the pre-modern world, one of FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s Ð²Ð‚ÑšregimesÐ²Ð‚Ñœ of power involves the mere expulsion or elimination of the individual from the community. This exclusionary measure can take various forms Ð²Ð‚â€œ from physically executing the criminal like what happened during the inquisition of witches or the execution of Damiens in front of the French church to less crude arrangements such as exile or seclusion of the convict in the outskirts of society. But more importantly, exclusion also pertains to the basic confinement or isolation as seen through the measures taken by a plague-stricken town in Discipline and Punish. Foucault describes such situation in vivid detail.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšFirst, a spatial partitioning: the closing of the town and its outlying districts, a prohibition to leave the town on pain of death, the killing of all stray animals; the division of the town into distinct quarters, each governed by an intendant. Each street is placed under the authority of a syndic, who keeps it under surveillance; on the appointed day, everyone is ordered to stay indoors: it is forbidden to leave on pain of death.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
In essence, the town is isolated, cautiously guarded and sequestered by and large. Such implementation of power is the Ð²Ð‚Ñšmost effective power of organization for the exercise of absolutistic punitive measures; since the model of the plague city help to acquire a varied and discriminating knowledge of control and organization methods, it was even more efficient as a power model of internment.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ But despite the effectiveness of such method, Foucault did not endorse such set-up and for him, it is a far cry from the potency of disciplinary societies. The plague-stricken, for the most part, still employs physical force to achieve its objectives
From the regime of exclusion and internment, another form of power principle emerged Ð²Ð‚â€œ the process of Ð²Ð‚Ñšinner confinement or normative integration.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Instead of displacing and exiling the individual to another place, s/he rejoins the community and undergoes a reformative training to change his or her behaviors. It involves a corrective mechanism as a means of generating obedient and submissive individuals who are later on re-integrated in the social system. Humane measures and proper education replaced the dehumanizing forms of sentences of its predecessors. In the general sense, righteousness and morals became a litmus test for disciplining the human person.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšEconomic strategies of normalization and inner disciplining appeared now in place of public authority with its extravagant demonstration of power. The restricting of external authority to given situations was now superseded through the general application of intellectual norms..
..The enlightened lawmakers who were for reform criticized the cruelty and arbitrariness of punishment and demanded a humanization of sentencing. Criminal acts no longer offended the feudal sovereign who took revenge on the criminal but rather they offended the entire democratic society that was obliged to defend itself against him or her.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
Considered by many as the core of Discipline and Punish, Foucault is mainly concerned with the transition of power relations that transpired in the modern era and that brought about the disciplinary society. The disciplinary society is principally described by the power being utilized through the establishment of a set of norms - standard patterns of behavior that is deemed normal in a particular society. These norms are forged through the employment of constant surveillance and instead of the body, the use of the soul as the article of discipline. Foucault argues that in this set-up, Ð²Ð‚Ñšdiscipline proceeds from the distribution of individuals in spaceÐ²Ð‚Â¦ each individual has his own place and each place its own individual.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
In the era prior the modern age, the body was the center of the punishment. It showcased the sovereignÐ²Ð‚â„¢s hold on its citizens. The ancient regimes use brute force and physical operations against the individualÐ²Ð‚â„¢s body through inhumane tortures and bloody executions. The primary objective is to show to the citizens the wide gap that exists between their power and the power of the king or monarch. Within this system, power was Ð²Ð‚Ñšexercised at a distance, exceptionally and capriciously; within its successors, power was supposed to operate routinely and universally, throughout the social body.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The sovereign made clear with the horrifying spectacle of the criminal and its blatant exhibition of power, its overlying position in the power structure. For intensive purposes, the criminal becomes a representation of the crowd and at the same time, he exhibits the fact that challenging the Goliath power of the sovereign is a mere labor in vain.
On the contrary, in the disciplinary society of the modern period, the convicted individual is not taken out of the community but synthesized instead. On the account of their delinquent character and aberration of societal norms, the criminal is given a chance to internalize his deviance and gain his place back in society. The disciplinary society maintains its power and influence not through the horror of vandalizing the body, but through the recognition of the set standards. There was a shift of the power operations from the body to the soul. This non-corporal entity called soul has indeed a reality. The soul brings out the Ð²Ð‚Ñšpsyche, subjectivity, personality, consciousness by which scientific techniques and discourses are built upon. Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The soul Ð²Ð‚Ñšinhabits man and brings him into existence which is itself a factor in the mastery that power exercises over the body Ð²Ð‚â€œ the soul is the effect and instrument of political autonomy.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ It is through the prime acknowledgement of the norms and the appropriate recognition of restorative procedures as part of manÐ²Ð‚â„¢s nature that the disciplinary society gains its power. In the end, the corrective penalty is not imposed to the physical body but to the intrinsic being of the person.
Jeremy BenthamÐ²Ð‚â„¢s Panopticon is the probably the most fitting illustration of the workings of power in the disciplinary society. It can be considered as a microcosm for FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s desired community on a macro level. It is an architectural structure consisting of a central tower and individual cells in its circular setting. The outlying units have two large windows, one on each side, for the overseerÐ²Ð‚â„¢s optimal supervision or the lack thereof from the top of the middle spire. Foucault describes the Panopticon as a Ð²Ð‚Ñšmechanism that arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately [each cell in the structure.]Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The building, in essence, showcases how individuals, whether criminals, madmen and the like, can be observed and controlled effectively. The main objective of the Panopticon is to Ð²Ð‚Ñšinduce in the inmate a state of consciousness and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Through the distinct structure of the BenthamÐ²Ð‚â„¢s Panopticon, the individual confined in the system was made to believe that he was under permanent supervision and inspection. The individual actions and overall conduct of the prisoners were steadily watched. However, for the most part, the individuals inside the cells do not have the single hint or trace if they are actually monitored or not. Bentham designed the structure in such a way that there is a tool for non-verifiability Ð²Ð‚â€œ Ð²Ð‚Ñšthe inmate must never know whether he is being looked at any moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The system is somewhat omnipresent wherein the guards need to do nothing for the prisoner to act in full compliance. From the onset, it was conditioned in their minds that there is a Ð²Ð‚?constant watchful eyeÐ²Ð‚â„¢ that is vigilant in surveying their actions. In effect, there is a sense of self-acting operation of power wherein the individual behaves accordingly to the rules of the prison without the slightest clue if there are actual guards observing their movements. In the end, with guards or otherwise, the prisoners are programmed to be their best selves and become their own surveying mechanisms.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšWith BenthamÐ²Ð‚â„¢s plan, the psychology of associationism provided a materialist framework for understanding the process by which individual sensation, perception and conduct were connected; a means by which the inmate could be trained to be the agent of his own reformation. The Panopticon in a sense combined what Foucault terms the Ð²Ð‚?semio-techniquesÐ²Ð‚â„¢ of the contractual regime which presumed an economy of signs centered on the rational, calculating individual with the disciplinary techniques of the carceral regime which presumed a political technology based on disciplinary training.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
Furthermore, the capacity to examine the individuals in the Panopticon did not rest solely on the watchtower guards but in a sense, to everyone who has caught sight of the unique structure. Accordingly, the power was dispersed from a particular individual or nuclear source into an atomized type of power. Foucault regarded Bentham's Panopticon as a demarcation line marking the transition from the brutish imposition of sovereign power marked with displays of physical force as well as violent punishments, to a disciplinary technology which features sensible penalties, measured automatically, discreetly and for the most part, through self-imposed exercise. Fundamentally, the individual became Ð²Ð‚Ñšthe principle of his own subjection.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ It is self-policing wherein the prisoner is the bearer of his own subduing. In the following passage, Foucault highlights the weakening of the sovereignÐ²Ð‚â„¢s power, as well as the genesis of Ð²Ð‚Ñšdisindividualized powerÐ²Ð‚Ñœ with the advent of the Panopticon.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšPower has its principle not so much in a person as in a certain concerted distribution of bodies, surfaces, lights, gazes; an arrangement whose internal mechanisms produce the relation in which individuals are caught up. The ceremonies, the rituals, the marks by which the sovereignÐ²Ð‚â„¢s surplus power was manifested are useless. There is a machinery that assures dissymetry, disequilibirum, difference. Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine: in the absence of the director his family, his friends, his visitors, even his servants.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
Another fundamental element of panoptic power is its universality. BenthamÐ²Ð‚â„¢s model of the Panopticon is not only pertinent and relevant in prisons but in other institutions as well such as schools, factories, correction facilities, military centers, psychiatric asylums, bureaucratic agencies and the police force. The hallmarks of the disciplinary power such as optimal organizational control, sequestering of units, full transparency and incessant monitoring of the self with the absence of a visible regulating source is indeed evident in many facets of modern life.
In universities and executive colleges, for instance, the panoptic system is quite evident. Students are divided into specific classes for easier direction. The professor is located in front to induce a sense of authority and to have a good view of all his subjects. Rooms Ð²Ð‚Ñšwere divided, parceled, organized and controlled; the individual bodies were divided into individual movements, gestures, attitudes and energies, in order to train them individually, organize them differently and finally integrate them into a total body.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Likewise, in the corporate world, the BenthamÐ²Ð‚â„¢s Panopticon extends its influence and predominance. In a common business firm, for example, workers are subdivided into different departments: marketing, finance, human resources, etc. In essence, there is a degree to which the workers are interviewed, examined and separated into specialized units in order to facilitate their control. With the advent of technology, surveillance cameras are placed in strategic spots in the office area to represent as the ubiquitous eyes of the bosses. In actuality, there may not be anyone watching in the corresponding monitors, but nonetheless, the employees are performing in their best work behavior as it was instilled in their minds that they are constantly observed and inspected.
Hence, disciplinary power, through the institution of norms and standards, outlines for the most part what is to be considered Ð²Ð‚Ñšnormal.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ However, this sense of Ð²Ð‚ÑšnormalityÐ²Ð‚Ñœ is never brought about by human nature but is molded from societal forces. Normal Ð²Ð‚Ñšmust be measured and defined in order to exert an influence on individuals - This is the role of the examination in the disciplinary society.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Likewise, the technology of constant surveillance allows for the transformation of subjects into observable data that can be easily prefigured and managed. Using the notion of normality as their telos or end-goal, disciplinary power acts to standardize it subjects into social machine. Foucault even asserts that Ð²Ð‚Ñšdiscipline is no longer simply an art of distributing bodies, of extracting time from them and accumulating it, but of composing forces in order to obtain an efficient machine.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ All in all, the disciplinary society oversees and governs all facets of the lives of its subjects in order to manipulate their productivity as well as their actions. In the end, the workings of power in the disciplinary society, as seen in the Panopticon, lies primarily on the issue of efficiency wherein only through immutable surveillance that such capacity can be optimized.
Sexuality is a social construct. It is not something that is intrinsic to the human person. Neither innate nor instinctive, sexuality is not deeply rooted in the nature of human beings. For the most part, it has a particular history Ð²Ð‚â€œ a concept forged by the interplay of bodily fanaticism and social repression. Sandra Lee Bartky in her essay Ð²Ð‚ÑšFoucault, Femininity and the Modernization of Patriarchal PowerÐ²Ð‚Ñœ even argues that masculinity and femininity are culturally fabricated. According to Bartky, gender is socially built by saying that Ð²Ð‚Ñšwe are born male or female, but not masculine or feminine; femininity is an artifice, an achievement, Ð²Ð‚Ñša mode of enacting and reenacting received gender norms which surface as so many styles of the flesh.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Particularly, the female subject is shaped through the disciplines she imposes on her body as seen in her strong desire to constantly change her size and shape, in her desperate attempt to mimic the proper gestures, posture and movement of the common woman and in her unsatisfied appetite towards decorating her body. In essence, this has been Michel FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s main suggestion in The History of Sexuality. Not only does he maintain that sexuality is historically formed, he also argues that the communityÐ²Ð‚â„¢s preoccupation and in the broadest sense, fetish for anything sexual has generated an array of discussion around it. Along with the supposed restriction of Western societies of anything that connotes sexual urges or sparks of pleasure is the proliferation of discourses concerning sexuality. Contrary to popular belief that the notions of the sexuality in the past are merely images of a nameless conquest or a subject with unmentionable circumstances, Foucault argues that adjudging sex as taboo and a forbidden subject has actually in reverse led to its omnipresence in peopleÐ²Ð‚â„¢s lives. Had sexuality been thought of as something natural or ingrained to human nature, this would not have been the result and the thoughts surrounding the discourse might have been sealed and obstructed from human consciousness for a great deal of time.
According to Foucault, the roots of sexuality can be traced back to the emergence of the bourgeois community, as well as, their collective attempts in maintaining their power in society. To explain such argument, Foucault offered several justifications. In the first chapter of The History of Sexuality, for instance, Foucault linked the proliferation of sexual discourses with the bourgeoisÐ²Ð‚â„¢ principal concern for work and capital expansion. Such work-oriented lifestyle, for him, has spearheaded the groupÐ²Ð‚â„¢s declaration that sex was a mere waste of time and effort. In effect, the valuable opportunities that could have been used for labor and to augment oneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s productivity is forfeited due to manÐ²Ð‚â„¢s unnecessary carnal pursuits. This bourgeois assertion acknowledges the fact that those in power are the ones who regulate and govern representations and discussions about sex. Controlling the discourse on sex is a driving force towards the preservation of their influence in society. The middle class populace would want to take hold of sex since it might be a prospective deterrent when it comes to their work and expanding their wealth. In the end, the fact remains that the primary motive in manipulating the perception about sex is the urge to gain the upper hand in this macro-level power relationship.
But more importantly, the bourgeois society has used sexuality to overstress life and advocate the strength, pervasiveness and lineage of its class. The act of repressing the sexual impulses of the working class was deliberate on the part of the ruling denomination. The purpose of the deployment of sexuality was a Ð²Ð‚Ñšself-affirmation of one class rather than the enslavement of another: a defense, a protection, a strengthening and an exaltation that were eventually extended to others Ð²Ð‚â€œ at the cost of different transformations Ð²Ð‚â€œ as a means of social control and political subjugations.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The bourgeois, in fact, became attracted to the idea of governing the realm of sex in order to maintain the health of their bodies as well as the well being of future generations. Essentially, Foucault claims that a sound bourgeois class tomorrow is highly dependent on the controlled sexuality today.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšWith this investment of its own sex by a technology of power and knowledge which it had itself invented, the bourgeoisie underscored the high political price of its body, sensations and pleasures, in well-being and survival. Let us not isolate the restrictions, evasions or silences which all these procedures may have manifested, in order to refer them to some constitutive taboo, psychical repression, or death instinct. What was formed was a political ordering of life not through an enslavement of others but through an affirmation of self.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
In line with this, Foucault explains that the domination of bourgeoisie with regard to sexual discourses, as well as, its whole history of suppression in other matters, is part and parcel an emerging class struggle. Although he did not explicitly state that the control of one class has willfully propagated the subjugation of other people, the inevitable fact remains that such action resulted to the disadvantage of the other. By trying to extend their power, the upper crust sector of society has deprived the working class with the truth Ð²Ð‚â€œ the truth regarding their selves and the appropriate understanding of their sexuality. As mentioned earlier, power relations are central to FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s analysis of society and such claim holds particularly true with sexuality. Power associations are shaped in all types of relationships that involved any form of differences Ð²Ð‚â€œ individual or societal in nature. The 19th century bourgeois invented sexuality with much partiality towards their welfare and such actions not only commanded the destiny of their group but the fate of the other classes as well.
Beyond doubt, FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s explanation regarding the origins of sexual discourses, from the significant actors that propelled the multiplication of its discussions as well as the issues the surround the act of class subjugation has reinforced two important facts about sexuality. On the one hand, as the central thesis of this discussion, sexuality is a social construct. The bourgeois fabricated sexuality for their own good Ð²Ð‚â€œ to maintain their productivity and their genealogy. On the other hand, it also shows that power can be a constructive force. Power is not a mere tool for subjugation but an instrument as well for the betterment of oneself. The bourgeois segment employed power to primarily uphold the wellness of their bodies and minds and not just to burden other people.
The expanding discourse on sexuality has spawned a number of distortions regarding the truth about sex. Oftentimes, sex is considered by many as a menacing force that poses as a peril or something that would jeopardize the totality of a person, as well as, the society s/he belongs to. Dialogues and writings about sex were usually tainted with twisted misinterpretations and complete fabrications, which for the most part, aims at cushioning the general populace from the presumed perversions set by unconventional sexual routines and other uncommon pleasurable practices. Foucault stresses the fact that the discourse on sex Ð²Ð‚Ñšnever ceased to hide the thing it was speaking aboutÐ²Ð‚Â¦all of these things, the painstaking precautions and detailed analyses, and so many procedures meant to evade the unbearable, too hazardous truth of sex.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ He continues by saying that although the realm of science, with the likes of Sigmund Freud, has paved the way for the empirical study of sex and augmented the discussion regarding the subject, it did not at all produced the truth of sex or any exposition approximating it. Foucault, however, observed that through the learned discourses in the biology of reproduction and the domain of medicine, the subject of sex was released from the myopic paradigms of morality and transferred it to the sphere of rationality and knowledge. But the scientific take on sex did not erase the disparities regarding the topic.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšThis much is undeniable: the learned discourse on sex that was pronounced in the nineteenth century was imbued with age-old delusions, but also with systematic blindness: a refusal to see and to understand; but further Ð²Ð‚â€œ and this is the crucial point Ð²Ð‚â€œ a refusal concerning the very thing that was brought to light and whose formulation was urgently solicited. For there can be no misunderstanding that is not based on a fundamental relation to truth. Evading this truth, carrying access to it, masking it: there were so many local tactics which, as if by superimposition and through a last-minute detour, gave a paradoxical form to a fundamental petition to know.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
Hence, the main attempt is to bring out the truth about sex without the unnecessary falsehoods and untruths. Fundamentally, there are two mechanisms by which the truth of sex is unmasked in history. First, the communities of China, Japan, India, Rome and the Arabic-Muslim world have approached sex as an object of knowledge through the employment of ars erotica (erotic art). Ars erotica offers a kind of knowledge that is drawn from pleasure and sensual experience. Pleasure is considered Ð²Ð‚Ñšfirst and foremost in relation to itself.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The truth that ars erotica is depicting lies on how pleasure is experienced Ð²Ð‚â€œ its intensity, quality, duration and the like. There is no absolute law of what constitutes an accepted or prohibited form of pleasure. In essence, with ars erotica, sex is regarded as an artifice devoid of any shame or abashment. Foucault extends his explanation of ars erotica by including the primacy of mystery in sex, as well as, the manner in which the knowledge of sex is passed.
Ð²Ð‚ÑšMoreover, this knowledge must be deflected back into the sexual practice itself, in order to shape it as though from within and amplify its effects. In this way, there is formed a knowledge that must remain secret, not because of an element of infamy that might attach to its object, but because of the need to hold it in the greatest reserve, since, according to tradition, it would lose its effectiveness and tits virtue by being divulged. Consequently, the relationship to the master who holds the secrets is of paramount importance; only he, working alone, can transmit this art in an esoteric manner and as the culmination of an initiation in which he guides the discipleÐ²Ð‚â„¢s progress with unfailing skill and severity.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
On the other hand, modern societies employ scientia sexualis (science of sexuality) which pertains to the obtaining the truth of sex not from Ð²Ð‚Ñšart of initiations and the masterful secretÐ²Ð‚Ñœ but from the confessions of the ignorant. Confession often refers to the admission of oneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s sins, guilt or wrongdoing and it Ð²Ð‚Ñšbecame one of the WestÐ²Ð‚â„¢s most highly valued techniques for producing truth. But this type of truth-inducing mechanism is not only present in Christian circles through the sacrament of reconciliation but it also Ð²Ð‚Ñšplays a part in justice, medicine, education, family relationships, and love relations, in the most ordinary affairs of everyday life.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ The fixation in finding about the facts about sexuality has generated the truth through individual disclosures. In the end, the act confessing did not become a stifling force that the hegemonic party could use to exploit the less powerful. But, in the wider sense, it was use a form of emancipation from repressive powers that more often than not, suppress the individual sentiments. Confessions, for Foucault, has a dichotomy of power relations: the individual is compelled to tell the truth but in the process, it serves as a venue for the individual to realize his total self, potentials, faculties toward his own personal liberation.
Recognizing oneself as a homosexual, for instance, can be considered as utilizing the personages of the scientia sexualis and the inner workings of confession. Contemporary times calls this act as Ð²Ð‚Ñšcoming outÐ²Ð‚Ñœ or oneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s disclosure to reveal his true sexual tendencies toward the same sex. It is through this expression that the person experiences a cathartic liberation of sorts wherein the individual becomes the better translation of itself. Also, what we now regard as homosexuality cannot exist outside a specific cultural context. The same goes for all sexuality. Sexual intercourse is necessary for procreation, but that does not mean that sexuality, compromising and theorizing about all erotic behaviors, is a natural and necessary category. Sexuality is more than just dabbling with the subject of sex and pleasurable behavior. In more ways than one, the largest part of its meaning lies in its historical, cultural and social implications. Indeed, as expressed through the arguments expressed in this paper, sexuality for Foucault is a social construction Ð²Ð‚â€œ a view that can be a springboard for the study of its development in an entirely new fashion. Therefore, in relation with this, the existence of homosexuality can not be denied in society. Unfortunately, the peopleÐ²Ð‚â„¢s biases and prejudices are the ones that are remained unchecked. Foucault adds that homosexuality Ð²Ð‚Ñšappeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed from practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny, a hermaphrodism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ
Furthermore, the act of confession of oneÐ²Ð‚â„¢s sexual inclinations in general has its religious underpinnings. In the Christian perspective, one should confess ones sexuality through mindful introspection of the self. In effect, ethics and morality entered the picture of sexuality. In an act of reconciliation, every carnal pursuit or sexual pleasure are weighed to find any traces of sin. Such Christian angle in exploring sexuality was further emphasized by Foucault in his attempt to define life as a work of art or aesthetics. It encapsulates FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s understanding that the human person as a historical agent and a sexual subject is, in fact, a work in progress.
From an engaging exposition about repression and sex in the modern world in The History of Sexuality, Foucault shifts his attention to the ancient world in the concluding years of his philosophical work. In The Use of Pleasure and The Care for the Self, Foucault attempts to analyze the conceptions of the ethical self of the Greek and Hellenic civilizations. He goes back to the workings of antiquity wherein Ð²Ð‚Ñšthe individual as subjects of sexuality are in the theoretical and practical sense the object of ethics.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ His primary consideration in exploring ancient sexuality was to contrast it with Christian ethics through the development of sexual ideas in both frameworks. Foucault found out sexual acts for Christians are sources of evil while for the Greeks, it is naturally good and necessary but for the most part, it is susceptible to mistreatments. The ancient Greeks, for instance, underscored the significance of engaging in a wide array of sexual exercises Ð²Ð‚â€œ perhaps some of which may be considered inappropriate in the Christian context such as homosexuality, lesbianism, extra-marital affairs and the like Ð²Ð‚â€œ to ultimately bring out the optimal use of pleasures. Of course, this is not without restrictions and the culture of pagan antiquity suggests that everything must be taken in moderation Ð²Ð‚â€œ including sex and intimate activities. Ð²Ð‚ÑšInstead of inquiring about the conditions for the disintegration of the subject, Foucault asks now about its sovereign formation, by which it is able autonomously to create from its own life a beautiful work.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ In the end, the classical conception of sex yields to what Foucault coins as the Ð²Ð‚ÑšaestheticsÐ²Ð‚Ñœ of existence wherein through sexual activities, the self creates a beautiful version of himself.
All in all, Michel FoucaultÐ²Ð‚â„¢s ideas regarding the mechanism of disciplinary power in modern societies, as well as, the socially constructed notion of sexuality have indeed left an indelible mark in modern philosophical thought. Although most of his assertions were marred with controversy and a great deal of criticism, his influence in contemporary thinking is truly undeniable. For the most part, Foucault did not look at some of the culturally deemed human truths at face value. On the contrary, he learned to face the current and question the hegemonic ideas regarding power and sexuality that have been crystallized into normality throughout the course of history. Without a doubt, with Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality, Foucault created an entirely new approach to the understanding of human person Ð²Ð‚â€œ ideas that have catapulted him as one of the greatest philosophical geniuses of our times.
Bartky, Sandra Lee. Ð²Ð‚ÑšFoucault, Femininity and the Modernization of
Patriarchal Power.Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Feminism and Foucault. Boston: Northeastern
University Press, 1988.
David, Luis S. Ð²Ð‚ÑšMichel Foucault on the Wreck of Leviathan and the
Constitution of a New Stylistics of Love,Ð²Ð‚Ñœ Budhi 1, 1997.
Fink-Eitel, Hinrich. Foucault: An Introduction. Philadelphia:
Pennbridge Books, 1992. (B 2430 F724 F5713)
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan. New
York: Vintage Books, 1979.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality Volume I: An Introduction,
translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.
James, Colin and Roy Porter, ed. Reassessing Foucault: Power,
Medicine And the Body. London: Routledge, 1994.
(HM 22.F82 F697)
Kelly, Michael, ed. Critique and Power: Recasting the
Foucault/Habermas Debate. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994.
(B 2430 F724 C75)
Get Better Grades Today
Join Essays24.com and get instant access to over 60,000+ Papers and Essays