Essay on Critique Of Michel Foucault 's ' 1984 '

Essay on Critique Of Michel Foucault 's ' 1984 '

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This essay will analyze and critique Michel Foucault’s (1984) essay The Use of Pleasure in order to reveal certain internal weaknesses it contains and propose modifications that would strengthen his reading of sexuality as a domain of moral self-formation. In order to do so, it will present a threefold critique of his work. Firstly, it will argue that that his focus on solely the metric of pleasure divorced from its political manifestations underemphasizes state power as a structuring principle of sexuality. Secondly, it will posit that his attention to classical morality privileges written works by male elites and fails to account for the subtexts that would demonstrate other forms of morality. Finally, it will argue that the nature of actors’ resistance to moral codes, explicated through Butler’s concept of iterability and signification, is an important factor that should also be considered. As a result of this critique, this essay will posit that in order to enhance this text’s value contribution to the genealogical study of sexuality it is necessary to challenge the role of politics and agency in his account of sexuality as an ethical practice.
In the introduction to his History of Sexuality Volume II, Foucault attempts to conduct a genealogical study of how sexuality became conceived of as a moral practice in Christianity. In particular, he examines how the “slow formation in antiquity of a hermeneutics of the self” (pg. 6) set the process for morality being conceived of having a fundamental relationship with human self-formation as an ethical subject (pg. 28). In order to demonstrate his thesis that there is a relationship of transfer of the ideas and practices that posit the individual as an ethical subject of sexual condu...


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...icability of his reading of this history, however, it is necessary to supplement it with an analysis of political ideologies and their embodied effects in the classical texts that he engages with. Furthermore, Foucault’s focus on masculine morality must be reconstituted to include the hidden subtext of feminine and slave morality within these texts. Additionally, a genealogy of sexuality in morality must be open to and inclusive of forms of resistance and agency that would arise as moral acts are resignified by actors. Upon the implementation of these critiques there arises the possibility of a more complete genealogy of the history of Christian (and modern) domain of sexuality as situated in morality. In doing so, it will provide a useful conceptual tool to applicable to a wide array of social fields, including anthropology, history, gender studies, and philosophy.

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