Understanding Power & Discourse: Foucault’s Social Theory

I have had a fair amount of difficulty trying to wrap my head around the concept of discourse, as there are many varying definitions and interpretations. Therefore this blog post is going to use research in order to develop my understanding so that hopefully I will be able to go into my essay without any issues in regard to what it means.

“For Foucault, a discourse is an institutionalized way of speaking or writing about reality that defines what can be intelligibly thought and said about the world and what cannot.”(http://routledgesoc.com/category/profile-tags/powerknowledge)

Michel Foucault was a French philosopher and social theorist who addressed the important relationship between knowledge and power. He believes that these two factors are crucial in the production of social control within the institutions of society. He carries the belief that the configuration of power, knowledge and truth constitutes discourse.  He also rejects the term ‘ideology’ as he stated that it is an unacceptable concept due to its implications of universal rationality and truth, of which he also opposes.

In order to deepen my understanding of the theory of discourse, I have been looking at his study of sexuality in the modern world, ‘L’Histoire de la sexualite’ (‘The History of Sexuality) as an example of the emergence of sexuality as a discursive object.

‘Repressive Hypothesis’ 

Foucault focuses on this in part one of his writings on sexuality, saying that during the late 20th Century, Westerners believed that from the late 17th- early 20th Centuries, the open nature of sexuality was repressed as a result of the rise of capitalism and the uprise of the Victorian bourgeoisie.  However, Foucault disagreed with this notion that sex has been silenced in society, thus examining why modern Westerners believed in this repression of sexuality and why it was such a taboo subject (if not relating to the process of reproduction).  He argues that discourse in relation to sex has instead expanded and intensified since the 18th Century.

For example,













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