Foucaults Analyses of the Repressive Hypothesis

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As one of the most influential philosophers of the Twentieth Century, Foucault contributed many concepts to the postmodern questioning of the late decades of this period. But none of his ideas are more relevant or have been more utilized by other scholars than his "repressive hypothesis", particularly as it is explored within The History of Sexuality: An Introduction.


. . thus the image of the imperial prude is emblazoned on out retrained, mute, and hypocritical sexuality" (Foucault, 1990, p.1).
According to the traditional view of "repression" (one that Foucault palces firmly within a Freudian context), the Victorians were "repressed" and we in the modern age, with constant talk of sexuality and a relative openness regarding the subject, have broken free of that repression. Sexuality had power over the Victorians through its denial, the modern age is freed from these shackles. This Foucault presents as the traditional view of sexual repression, and also of power. For Foucault power is not "a general system of domination exercised by one element or one group over another, whose effect . . . traverse the entire body social . . . .". Foucault's view of power is one in which "the condition of the possibility of power . .. should not be sought in the primary existence of a central point . . . it is the moving based of locations of force that incessantly induce, by their inequality, states of power, but always local and unstable" (p.121-122). ...
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