Foucault x Relations x Lists

Going to skip pleasantries and preambles this time around, hope no one takes offence.

Perhaps not the most central to the text, I’d like to suggest that Foucault’s History of Sexality vol. 1 aims to cast power as essentially a matter of relation. So much of Foucault’s description involves mechanism and economy. Like sex, there is always relation and interplay in Foucault’s understanding of the world. Uncovering the relations (power-knowledge and the like), therefore becomes the method through which one can find meaning.I find this idea provocative, although I suspect I’m drastically over-simplifying things here.

Foucault’s has a surprisingly enjoyable writing style considering the density of his ideas. He doesn’t attempt any fancy techniques, and he comes across as a very honest writer, which is endearing. Would also like to mention his use of lists and tendency to connect multiple independent clauses with colons and semicolons. His stupendously long sentences generally flow really nicely, and I have a hunch that this stylistic feature is characteristic of the french language.


I made some outrageously bold claims in original post. The whole book is not about relations. But I think that understanding the relations for Foucault are a lot more important than describing the essence of sex and sexuality.

This book is not about sex. It is not hoping to find the essence of sex through the evolution of sexual practices through history, nor is it trying to find some absolute truth about sexuality. This work, I believe, is set on finding the way that sexuality operates as a function of power.

Even what could be considered the more “bodily” depictions of sex in this book, that is, the discussion of perversions, are less concerned with the perversion or fetishes themselves than with the way that they played a part in supporting the norm, the “incorporation of perversions and a new specification of individuals” (42-43).

This is a quote I feel that is essential to this book and to the vague blur I’m trying to get at here:

“By creating the imaginary element that is “sex,” the deployment of sexuality established one of its most essential operating principles: the desire for sex – the desire to have it, to have access to it, to discover it, to liberate it, to articulate it in discourse, to formulate it in truth. It constituted “sex” itself as something desirable” (156-157)

Sex is only “sex” insofar as it is part of a network, part of a system. That, if anything, is the essence of sex.

3 thoughts on “Foucault x Relations x Lists

  1. A little short this week, Josh! And so much more to explain… I’d like to hear more about what you mean when you say that Foucault “aims to cast power as essentially a matter of relation.” This idea deserves some further development!

  2. I agree with Jon that there’s more in this post that hasn’t been said, although the bit I find most intriguing is this:

    Uncovering the relations (power-knowledge and the like), therefore becomes the method through which one can find meaning.

    What kind of meaning?

    Also agreed that Foucault’s writing is fairly straightforward.

  3. Hey guys,
    I’ve updated this post in the hopes of fleshing it out a little bit. Thanks for calling me out on the ambiguity. Let me know what you think.

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