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MAGARAO September 9, 2009


On Foucault’s Deployment of Sexuality


Michel Foucault with his book entitled The History of Sexuality Volume

I: An Introduction in its fourth part entitled The Deployment of Sexuality

made mention of the four deployments namely objective, method, domain, and

periodization. Over and above, what Michel Foucault stresses here is on how

the power-knowledge relations transformed and became a faithful companion of

the disciplinary apparatus. However, it is worth noticing that Foucault

before writing the said segment in his book placed prior to it the third part

under the title of Scientia Sexualis. In the preceding part of the book,

Foucault points out how the ars erotica was converted into scientia sexualis

or what we call in modern days as the sciences of sexuality. It is where

these so called sciences of sexuality under the disguise of care became the

road of bringing everything in submission to control. In other words, what

was a free moving, dynamic-oriented and procedure-free ars erotica is now

methodical; hence, as a science it is removed from all its privileges of

being dynamic, free, and unprocedural. It is because what turns to be dynamic

(or becoming in the philosophical terminology of the Ancient and Scholastic

thinkers) is essentially out of control and can never be submitted to

manipulation. Thus, if there is no control on certain stuff, surely there

will also be no power over it. As Foucault says, “Let us consider things in

broad historical perspective: breaking with the traditions of the ars

erotica, our society has equipped itself with a scientia sexualis.1 But what

might be a problem in the conversion of the art into a science is that as a

science it controlled sexuality in order to manipulate and control people’s

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction, (New York: Vintage Books A
Division of Random House, Inc., 1990), 67.
behavior for the benefit of the society, which as a result increases the

power. The modern disciplinary society made use of the body as the means of

control. What exactly this means is by suppressing the body via its sexuality

there is an inverse proportionality towards the increase of power. In other

words, the more that the body is suppressed or subjected to control, the more

that power is increased.

As a science the issue on sex became an abstraction; abstraction as a

source of getting the truth. While in the case of the ars truth is drawn from

pleasure itself, understood as a practice and accumulated as experience;

pleasure is not considered in relation to an absolute law of the permitted

and the forbidden, nor by reference to a criterion of utility, but first and

foremost in relation to itself; it is experienced as pleasure, evaluated in

terms of its intensity, its specific quality, its duration, its

reverberations in the body and the soul.2 Again, these conversion and

transformation geared only towards increasing control and power. Hence,

Michel Foucault is just implying that all these are in accord to the

propagation and installment of power over and above every individual in the

society. It is all about power relations which in its barest sense power-

knowledge-relations. As for me it only means this: in knowing we control, in

controlling we know.

On the Deployment of Sexuality

Among the four deployment of sexuality what really calls my critical

attention is the method. Primarily, in the opening page of the section Michel

Foucault discusses the concept on power and he even differentiated it from

mechanisms and group institutions. He said that power is everywhere; not

because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere.3 From

this point of view, Foucault ushered everyone to the point that at a certain

Ibid., 57.
Ibid., 93.
extent the assertion of power transcends our awareness. As we once again hear

him saying, power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a

certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a

complex strategical situation in a particular society.4 Foucault in the

following pages of his book even made a further discussion of the concept of

power as it became vividly clear that power is evidently embedded in

relationships. Hence, I infer that for Michel Foucault relationship means no

other than power. The building of relationships is directly proportional to

power, leaving human beings conscious or unconscious of its operation.

Furthermore, power, according to Foucault, is primarily mobile and

nonegalitarian, that is, in the existence of inequality in a society the

emergence of power is inevitable and invincible. In other words, the

inequality in the society strengthens and empowers the authority of power

relations. Moving much more ahead, he made mention that there is no power

that is exercised without a series of aims and objectives.5 However, Foucault

also stressed that when there is power, there is resistance, and yet, or

rather consequently, this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in

relation to power.6

Michel Foucault enumerated four rules namely the rule of immanence,

rules of continual variations, rule of double conditioning, and rule of the

tactical polyvalence of discourses. But what calls my attention in the first

mentioned rule by Foucault is the coming into the fore of the panopticon. In

the creation of the so called “local centers” of power-knowledge as in the

subjection of the self in confession, self-examination, interviews, which in

general the mastery of the flesh, the person especially the child or I would

say anyone else by being watched after by other individuals like teachers,

nurses, etc. is really subjugated and forced to do a sort of self-

Ibid., 93.
Ibid., 95.
Ibid., 95.
surveillance of ones behaviors in the end. For example, in schools, the

giving out of examinations to students aims towards controlling the academic

behavior of students that in the duration of the process the students will

not be needing anymore any external factors to monitor their academic

behaviors but that they will be able to internalize the monitoring by

installing it within them making it a part of their selves. In this

connection, at the early stage what serves as the panopticon are the

teachers, nurses, parents and anyone whose attention are placed at any

manifestations of the child’s or individual’s sexuality while during the

later stage it gradually becomes the person himself/herself. Now, in the

second rule, it is good to notice that in the surveillance of the child’s

sexuality simultaneously the sexuality of the adults are also put into

question, hence a variation occurs. In this situation then, the control,

surveillance and the exercise of power-knowledge are not exhibited only upon

the individual child but including also the people surrounding him or her.

Somehow this concept gives a profound meaning to the local parlance that

goes: “The child is the mirror of the people surrounding him or her”. In

other words, the identity of the child is molded and constituted by

individuals surrounding him, so, whoever be the child in his/her later years

determines what kind of people did surround him/her during his/her

developmental years. Through this reflexive aspect of the identity of the

child to the adults surrounding him/her where the sexuality, as Foucault say,

of the adults is also put into question. In the long run, it means that the

scope of power is much even wider and covers everyone, which means everyone

whether he or she likes it or not is subjugated. In this relation, one might

ask, if one still has his/her freedom? Or is freedom after all an illusion

and a mere play of words because whether one likes it or not the exercise of

power over and above him/her is definitely not optional and excuses no one?

The third rule of double conditioning urges me to inquire even further: in

order to stop the exercise and emergence of power are we then licensed enough

to cut off all relationships, since power exhibits in relationships? But this

notion somehow sounds antithetical. The removal and cutting off of all

relationships would only mean a total detachment and solipsism. Surely, no

man can live like an island, that is, totally alone. As Aristotle would say,

“Man is a social animal”. Nevertheless, how can one escape from the dominion

and grip of power, if man wants to be totally free at all? On the other hand,

the fourth rule of the tactical polyvalence of discourses made mention of the

significance of discourse in establishing and enjoining together both power

and knowledge. Foucault in relation to the notion of discourse said that

discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a

hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for

an opposing strategy. Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces

it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it

possible to thwart it.7 He even defined discourse as a series of discontinuous

segments whose tactical function is neither uniform nor stable.8 This notion

on the discourse was taken from the traditional technique of confession

utilized by the Roman Catholic Church from which Foucault found a strong

assessment of power-knowledge relations. Moreover, in the discourse, truth is

being extracted and the process of extracting the truth through it places

both the inquirer and the inquired at the mercy of the conversation. In this

relation, Hans-Georg Gadamer, a philosopher who established the Philosophical

Hermeneutics and a thinker prior to Foucault, had thought the same thing as

Foucault did when it comes to how powerful and strategical the discourse in

determining and obtaining the truth. Furthermore, Gadamer noted that as far

as language9 is concerned, the actual subject of the play (here

Ibid., 101.
Ibid., 100.
Language is a pre-given variable in any discourse or conversation and it is the only medium of
communication in a conversation.
conversation/discourse is liken to a play by Gadamer) is obviously not the

subjectivity of an individual who among other activities also plays, but

instead the play itself. 10

In other words, relating the notion of Gadamer to

the issue of discourse of Foucault, both the inquirer and the inquired are

totally absorbed by the discourse due to the phenomenon that the discourse

takes priority over the subjects within the dialogue. Ultimately, Foucault

stresses that it was in the relationship of the psychiatrist to the child

that the sexuality of adults (especially those who are surrounding the child

as commonly practiced in the procedure of Developmental Psychology)

themselves are called into question.11 Moreover, the case of care here that

emerges between the relationship of the child and the people surrounding him

or her is always an opportunity of control. For the psychiatrist, teachers,

parents, etc. might be giving out the impression that they care for the

growth of the child but what really lurks behind is the goal of controlling

the person envisioning in him/her the becoming of a “docile body”. Hence, it

is the same thing with the seminary where psychology is employed intensively,

individual consultation of the seminarians is done regularly by the superior

of the seminary, etc. all is set for a singular vision, that is, to produce a

docile body in the disguise of an ideal priest. Consequently, once the docile

body is reached then the self-monitoring and self-surveillance takes into

account, hence, the goal of establishing the invisible panopticon is

triumphantly achieved.

This dominion of power to the body (as what we nowadays call the

science of the body) denotes not only the inevitable nature of the power-

knowledge relations but more to that is the pervasiveness of the assertion of

power upon everybody.

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, (London: Sheed and Ward Ltd., 1988), 93.
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Volume 1: An Introduction, (New York: Vintage Books A
Division of Random House, Inc., 1990), 99.

Knowledge as what Foucault says when linked to power not only assumes

the authority of the truth but has the power to make itself true. All

knowledge, once applied in the real world, has effects, and in that sense at

least, becomes true. Knowledge once used to regulate the conduct of others,

entails constraint, regulation and the disciplining of practice. Thus, there

is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of

knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the

same time, power relations.12

What are these telling us is that the different modern bodies of

knowledge regarding sexuality, that is, the sciences of sexuality such as

psychoanalysis, definitely have a close relation with the power structures of

the modern society and so are main contenders for the genealogical analysis.

That there is not only a control being exercised through others’ knowledge of

the individual person but that there is also a control through the

individuals’ knowledge of themselves. It is just paraphrasing the ancient

philosophical maxim that upon having the right knowledge of the object there

is the possibility of control, in other words, knowing means controlling.

Thus, individuals internalized the norms laid down by the sciences of

sexuality and monitor themselves in an effort to conform to these norms. This

simply means that they are not only controlled as object of the disciplinary

apparatus but simultaneously they become a self-monitoring, self-

scrutinizing, and self-forming subjects. Moreover, the existence and

domination of power turns omnipresent because it is constantly reproduced in

every relationship. Power comes from everywhere as Foucault pinned it out.

Thus, its domination over human beings makes it invincible for whether we

like it or not we are automatically subjected to it. As long as we move and

live in the society, the assertion of power-knowledge relations will never

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, (London: Tavistock, 1977), 27.
cease haunting us. Definitely, it starts externally but eventually it

penetrates the realm of the internal and leaves everyone out of guard and

devoid of any privilege of choosing. On the other hand, resistance is

completely incapable of defeating the reign of power-knowledge relations.

Whether one is educated or not, sane or insane, still one must submit to the

lordship of power-knowledge relations. Those who are insane might perhaps be

thinking that their insanity provides them the license to escape from the

grip of power-knowledge relations but not at all. It is because the more that

they are denied of their sanity, the more that they are being confined within

the grip of it via the issuance of control over their abnormal behavioral

condition armored with the hope of normalizing whatever abnormal behavior

they have. Even if one is uneducated like those who live in the cave, still

by the fact that they live in a cave already means that their behavior is

regulated. Isn’t it that the cave already serves as their own panopticon and

nature, on the other hand, is but another panopticon which commands them to

regulate their behavior according to its own natural processes? More so if

one is properly sane and excessively intelligent, still he/she is not excused

from the dominion of power-knowledge relations. There is actually no point of

resisting against the authority of power-knowledge relations as I see it.

Nevertheless, only in death where the person gets rid of the power-knowledge

relations because death means only one thing: the end of all relationships.

At this point somehow, the notion of freedom is no other than a mere

perspective. It is a kind of perspective which one establishes in an

existence where the ability to choose as a fundamental character of freedom

does not exist and amounts to no effect. It also seems for me that resistance

after all is a metaphorical word we use in language. On the other hand, the

reality of inequality aggravates the dominion of the power-knowledge

relations. Hence, I would say that man’s endowment of knowledge is a grace

and at the same time a curse. Because with the firm relationship of power and

knowledge, knowledge only means power and power only means knowledge.

Lastly, I will reecho what was noted earlier, “In knowing you control,

in controlling you know.”