Nietzsche and Foucault’s Genealogies both aim to dispel certain misguided suppositions that we have, which fundamentally shape the point of view that we take upon the subjects of their interest. Nietzsche’s attack on slave morality not only denounces the consequences of our subjugation to Christian/slave morality, but more importantly, it sought to quell the conventional notions associated with morality, such as morality being universal, or its origin being utilitarian (Nietzsche’s refutation of the claim that our high regard for pity has stemmed from a utilitarian consideration). Instead, Nietzsche offers the all-encompassing concept of will to power, which penetrates through all moral phenomena. An example of this is his analysis of philosopher’s penchant for ascetic ideals, which, despite ostensibly having been developed by a selfless contemplation, in fact comes from the philosophers’ pursuit for power and security. Thus he reveals what he conceives to be the true nature of morality and proceeds in his eradication of the misconceptions.
Similarly Foucault in History of Sexuality Volume 1 targets our belief in the repressive hypothesis. He states that people hold up the repressive hypothesis despite the fact that it does not have direct support from historical evidence. Foucault explains the ready acceptance it receives by pointing out that having placed the beginning of the era of sexual repression in the seventeenth century, which coincides with the beginning of the industrialization of the European economy, we fit the discourse easily into a larger, more broader discourse of economic revolution or Marxist discourse. However, he points out, this is after all a post-hoc interpretation, without support from historical evidence. He also notes that repressive hypothesis is readily accepted due to the fact that the conventional model of power (jurdico-discursive) we seem to rely on in our consideration of power also supports the repressive hypothesis that operates negatively and uniformly. However, Foucault points out the fact that the new mode of operation by power upon sexuality does not really fit the traditional model. Whereas the ancient prohibition (ex. prohibition on incest) operated in a negative and uniform manner, the modern operation of power upon sexuality saw to multiplication of both the power and its object, which can be seen in modern control of child sexuality that saw both on the one hand the dramatic increase in the tools of surveillance, control and correction, and on the other hand the increase in the outbreaks of child sexuality that remained hidden (thus non existent) up until that point.
And also, by going back to the confessionals of the 17th century Foucault demonstrates that modern history of sexuality is that of explosion of discourses, rather than that of sexuality being compelled to silence. Moreover, modern treatment of disparate sexualities that established heterogeneity of sexualities, and saw the incorporation of the disparate sexualities into the discourse, refutes repressive hypothesis of its claim that history of relationship between power and sex is that of repression.
Both misconceptions behind morality and power-sexuality relations dealt by Nietzsche and Foucault are seen by the two to be widely prevalent but rarely come up to surface to be examined. Neither of them, despite launching a wholesale attack against these misconceptions, attempts to demonstrate the truth of their claim that the misconceptions are there, and extremely prevalent. Both seem to be assured that popular contemporary discourses dealing with their subject (morality/sexuality) sufficiently validate their claim, and they saw the need to eradicate them.