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A Review Of Michel Foucault's Two Books

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Foucault’s Passage on the “History of Sexuality” and “Discipline and Punish”

Foucault writes in the introduction to the history of sexuality his desire for a general working hypothesis that would be different from the working hypothesis in the nineteenth century. He mentions that the society was a bourgeois, capitalist, and industrial society that did not confront sex with a fundamental refusal of recognition. Foucault mentions the kind of discourse put into operation by the society in the nineteenth century. The society, according to Foucault, compelled a uniform truth of sex thus creating a great suspicion on the matter. The passage also mentions the evil contents upon which the weakness of human beings is based. This essay is an explanation of Foucault’s passage about the discourse and the exercise of disciplinary power as well as the role that the discourses concerning sex play in creating a responsible human population.

Firstly, the passage mentions the fact that emphasis should be put in formulating a general working hypothesis and not just on a particular working hypothesis that portrays the society in a given way. Foucault views the general working hypothesis as a way of analyzing the existing discourse about sex from a just some perspective that tends to generalize an explanation of the social aspects of life such as sex. In the text about the introduction in the history of sexuality, Foucault states that it would be a blunder to outlook the question of proliferation of discourses simply as a qualitative phenomenon during the nineteenth century. In the article about punishment and discipline, Foucault gives an example of a hypothesis that seems not to be working in enhancing discipline. The hypothesis of punishment through loss of wealth and rights is mentioned by Foucault not to be working out (Foucault 12). The article relates to the other article about the history of sexuality since it is the sex discourses in the society that result in the crimes committed. Punishment does not; therefore solve the sex discourses in the society.

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From the passage, Foucault argues that the working hypothesis used to approach the rise in discourses concerning sex seem to identify the society as a place where matters to do with sex were not given any attention. Talking about sex might have seemed to be more important than other forms of imperatives imposed on it during the nineteenth century. The passage tends to explain the transformation of sex into a series of discourse during the nineteenth century. The discourse might have resulted from a view about sex that is far from reality. The reproductive economy at the time sex discourses were rampant, seemed to be very strict on unproductive behaviors that were in fact banned, since they were just casual pleasures that do not contribute to the reproductive economy (Foucault 36).

It is at that time in history that legal actions against minor sexual offences were increased. The general working hypothesis that Foucault mentions in the passage implies that the hypothesis used during the nineteenth century were never working, and thus there was the proliferation of sex discourse in the society. There were norms that were used to regulate sexual activities right from childhood to adulthood for every individual during the century. Apparently, sexual irregularities were linked to mental illness, and that led to the organization of medical treatment to deal with those who were accused of being sexually immoral. Such notions of sex led to sex discourses since there was no generalization in the hypothesis used. Besides, the hypotheses were never working out as mentioned in the passage.

The society that emerged in the nineteenth century was a society that was experiencing a lot of changes due to the industrial revolution that had just begun. In the passage, Foucault mentions the society to be bourgeois, capitalist, and even industrial. Apparently, the society gave other issues a priority so as to catch up with the revolution that was going on. The society aimed at increasing production through the use of machinery and modern technology during the time. Foucault argues that discourses are products of a machinery to exert disciplinary control over a population, a fact that is evident in the onset of the nineteenth century. The society might have tried to exert discipline on the people by the use of machinery since it was a time marked by the invention of new machinery and technology. The result was sex discourses due to lack of fundamental refusal of recognition in confronting sex (Foucault 69).

Foucault’s opinion on uniform truth asserts that knowledge is power and can be used to solve a good number of problems in the society. The emergence of the nineteenth century led to more focus on industrial development while creating the knowledge about sexuality issues was ignored. Indeed, knowledge is power when well utilized. The society did not confront sex with a fundamental refusal of recognition but put into operation the entire machinery for reproducing true discourses concerning it.

Foucault notes in the passage about sex becoming an object of great suspicion right from the emergence of the nineteenth century. For instance, in the ancient times, consanguine marriages were prohibited, and adultery was also condemned. In the emergence of the nineteenth century, the sexuality of children has been subordinated, and their solitary habits significantly interfered with, leading to the sexual discourses in the society. The suspicion and lack of knowledge among the children have been a major cause of discourse on the matter of sexuality (Foucault 41). The suspicion children have for having not been exposed to their sexuality leads to children disagreeing with some of the principles that regulate the sexuality of individuals. Similarly, Foucault, in the article “discipline and punish,” uses the example of believing in the past events to determine our activities. He describes the past events to be based on primitivism hence they ought not to determine our discipline, as in the case of sexual discourses where individuals may look at the past and be interested in them (Foucault 30).

Foucault believes that there is no truth about sex or such a thing as true discourse. He believes in social control when dealing with the issue of sexuality. In his text about punishment and discipline, he notes that the emergence of the nineteenth century was characterized by the abolishment of punishment for those who were never disciplined (Foucault 9). The abolishment of punishment could have meant that the hypothesis that used to regulate people against crimes was being misunderstood. Some understood punishment as an overreaction to the issue that was then a discourse. Foucault apparently sees no truth in the whole issue of crimes and punishment in his book about the same. He compares the perception of the people before the nineteenth century and during the nineteenth century. The perceptions on the truth about sex forms the relationship between the two articles about sex, discipline and punishment. Critically thinking, he judges from a perspective that there might be a different notion about sexuality in the future, thus no truth in the matter.

Foucault mentions in the passage from the introduction to the history of sexuality that our conduct and existence are pervaded by sex due to the suspicion individuals have on their sexuality (Foucault 69).Again, the statement suggests that we ought to put forward a working hypothesis in order to overcome the sex discourses in the society. For example, in his book about discipline and punishment, Foucault states that it would be better if we perhaps abandon the whole tradition that allows us to imagine that knowledge can only develop outside its injunctions, its demands, and interests. We are also advised to admit that power is one of the conditions of knowledge, without which the sex discourses cannot be solved. We are urged to abandon our thoughts that power makes mad but rather accept that power and knowledge directly imply one another. Our understanding of the passage should enable us analyze the power-knowledge relations between Foucault’s article “the history of sexuality” and “discipline and punish” on the basis of our sexuality.

The many discourses concerning sex play an important role in creating a disciplined population that has greater control over its activities. The passage has a meaning that our points of weakness as where we tend to carry out evil activities. We get to understand from the passage that every individual has his or her point of weakness. Moreover, the passage creates awareness on the issue of discipline and self-control as the factors that can lead to a solution to the discourses concerning sex.

The discourses concerning sex as in the texts written by Foucault play a role in creating an understanding of the body and material things. In his text about discipline and punishment, he describes the harsh and primitive prison life hence readers get to learn the importance of discipline. It is the discourses concerning sex that lead to the crimes that are often worth imprisonment. Foucault gives readers an understanding of how to respond to particular needs with the ongoing innovations in mind (Foucault 30).

In conclusion, Foucault’s passage creates an understanding of sex discourse and disciplinary power in controlling the issue. The passage enlightens us on creating approaches that can solve our personal needs as well as the change that is ongoing due to improved technology.

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