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The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction (1976)

by Michel Foucault

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The History of Sexuality (1)

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4,610221,716 (3.95)15
Michel Foucault's 'The History of Sexuality' pioneered queer theory. In it he builds an argument grounded in a historical analysis of the word "sexuality" against the common thesis that sexuality always has been repressed in Western society. Quite the contrary: since the 17th century, there has been a fixation with sexuality creating a discourse around sexuality. It is this discourse that has created sexual minorities. In 'The History of Sexuality', Foucault attempts to disprove the thesis that Western society has seen a repression of sexuality since the 17th century and that sexuality has been unmentionable, something impossible to speak about. In the 70s, when the book was written, the sexual revolution was a fact. The ideas of the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, saying that to conserve your mental health you needed to liberate your sexual energy, were popular. The past was seen as a dark age where sexuality had been something forbidden.… (more)
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» See also 15 mentions

English (20)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Okay, so now I’ve read two of Foucault’s books in two days, and I get it: power influences everything. I just have to wonder, though—isn’t this obvious? Can’t any person from an oppressed group see that in their own life? I’m not arguing with his main focus. I agree that power relations infect even the most basic of things. But where is the revelation in this? It’s certainly not to be found in Foucault’s endless repetition and fondness for presenting anecdote as fact, nor in the blatant historical inaccuracy that so often mars his texts.

I come away from this book with my own questions about power—power as it relates to the privileging of Foucault’s ideas in the academy. Why the endless focus on impenetrable texts of philosophy and psychoanalysis? Why is the unavoidable academic touchstone the theory of yet another white man? If we force each new generation of undergraduates to read these works of objectively bad writing, are we perpetuating the production of opaque, elitist academic prose?

I leave you with a quote: “We must not look for who has the power in the order of sexuality (men, adults, parents, doctors) and who is deprived of it (women, adolescents, children, patients); nor for who has the right to know and who is forced to remain ignorant. We must seek rather the pattern of the modifications which the relationships of force imply by the very nature of their process.”

I think, ultimately, Foucault and I just have very different goals.
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
I have little to say in the way of critique of Foucault's first volume other than it is a lucid analysis of the history of sexuality and power dynamics in society. The role of the family was particularly interesting in maintaining the status quo and challenged a lot of my assumptions.
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
I'm sure I found it somehat interesting at the time, what I could make out of it...but I was never good at Foucault. I used to doodle 不幸 on all of my notes about it because I enjoyed it oh so much.
  theosakakoneko | Feb 15, 2020 |
French Philosophy -- 20th century, Sex, Sex customs -- History -- Collected works, Sexual ethics, Sexual ethics -- History, Sexual Behavior -- history, Michel Foucault, Sex customs, Sex customs -- History, Knowledge, Science and sexuality,
  cyberneticslibrary | Nov 18, 2018 |
Interesting insofar as it is an explanation of Foucault's ideology and thought process. However, Foucault's analysis is more built on world-building than actual analysis of history (also Foucault goes about his argument more in case studies when it is more relevant to a universal theory).

If you find Foucault annoying (like I do sometimes) you will find this annoying. That said, the book delivers upon what it promises: Foucault's theory of sexuality. ( )
  MarchingBandMan | Apr 6, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michel Foucaultprimary authorall editionscalculated
Auziņa, IrēnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blumbergs, IlmārsCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hurley, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Michel Foucault's 'The History of Sexuality' pioneered queer theory. In it he builds an argument grounded in a historical analysis of the word "sexuality" against the common thesis that sexuality always has been repressed in Western society. Quite the contrary: since the 17th century, there has been a fixation with sexuality creating a discourse around sexuality. It is this discourse that has created sexual minorities. In 'The History of Sexuality', Foucault attempts to disprove the thesis that Western society has seen a repression of sexuality since the 17th century and that sexuality has been unmentionable, something impossible to speak about. In the 70s, when the book was written, the sexual revolution was a fact. The ideas of the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, saying that to conserve your mental health you needed to liberate your sexual energy, were popular. The past was seen as a dark age where sexuality had been something forbidden.

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Questo volume apre una serie di studi che non pretendono essere continui, né esaustivi; si tratterà di qualche sondaggio in un territorio complesso. I volumi successivi sono indicati solo a titolo provvisorio. Il mio sogno sarebbe un lavoro di lungo respiro, capace di correggersi man mano che si sviluppa, aperto alle reazioni che suscita, alle congiunture che gli toccherà d'incontrare, e forse ad ipotesi nuove. Lo vorrei un lavoro disperso e mutevole.
I lettori che si aspettassero di apprendere in che modo per secoli la gente ha fatto l'amore, o come le è stato vietato di farlo - problema serio, importante, difficile - rischiano di restare delusi. Non ho voluto fare una storia dei comportamenti sessuali nelle società occidentali, ma trattare un problema molto piú austero e circoscritto: in che modo questi comportamenti sono diventati oggetti di sapere? Come, cioè per quali vie e per quali ragioni, si è organizzato questo campo di conoscenza che, con una parola recente chiamiamo la "sessualità"? Quel che i lettori troveranno qui è la genesi di un sapere - un sapere che vorrei riafferrare alla radice, nelle istituzioni religiose, nelle forme pedagogiche, nelle pratiche mediche, nelle strutture familiari, là dove si è formato, ma anche negli effetti di coercizione che ha potuto avere sugl'individui, una volta che li aveva persuasi del compito di scoprire in se stessi la forza segreta e pericolosa di una "sessualità".
So bene che è imprudente spedire cosí, in esplorazione, un libro che fa incessantemente allusione a degli studi a venire. Ci sono grandi possibilità che appaia arbitrario e dogmatico. Le ipotesi rischiano di farvi figura di affermazioni perentorie, e le griglie di analisi proposte possono prendere l'aspetto di una nuova dottrina. Ne ho avuto d'altronde un esempio in Francia: dei critici, bruscamente convertiti ai benefici della lotta anti-repressiva, in cui non avevano finora manifestato grande ardore, mi hanno rimproverato di negare che la sessualità sia repressa. Cosa che, evidentemente, non ho mai preteso. Mi sono soltanto chiesto se, per decifrare i rapporti fra potere, sapere e sesso, si dovesse davvero centrare tutta l'analisi sulla nozione di repressione; e se non si rendesse meglio conto delle cose iscrivendo i divieti, le proibizioni, i rífiuti, le occultazioni in una strategia piú complessa, piú globale, non orientata verso la rimozione come obiettivo maggiore e principale.
I termini di "sesso" e di "sessualità" sono intensamente caricati e scottano. Mettono in ombra facilmente quelli che accompagnano. Per questo vorrei sottolineare che la sessualità è qui solo un esempio per un problema generale che inseguo - o che m'insegue - da ormai piú di quindici anni, e che guida d'altronde la maggior parte dei miei libri: in che modo, nelle società occidentali moderne, la produzione di discorsi cui si è attribuito (almeno per un certo periodo di tempo) un valore di verità è legata ai vari meccanismi ed istituzioni di potere?
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140268685, 0141037644

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