Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, and the Reformulation of Social Theory

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Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour

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Michel Foucault, history, sexuality, reformation, social theory


Other Sociology | Sociology


Foucault’s critics have often ignored or misunderstool Foucault’s later work, The History of Sexuality and related texts. Only by careful reading of these texts is it possible to appreciate the maturity of Foucault’s social critism, to distil an implicit social theory from his writings, and to gage the true significance of his contributions. In this paper, The History of Sexuality is first placed in the context of Foucault’s earlier works, then used, along with other texts, to answer the most common and famous critiques of his work. In the process, the contours and virtues of Foucault’s implicit social theory are indicated. Similarities with Nietzsche, Weber and Critical Theory are mentioned, but it is suggested that Foucault is in many ways a unique and uniquely significant thinker. Finally, it is argued that Foucault’s works should not be dismissed, as is all too common, but that his provocative reformation of social theory can and should be received and criticized as such.