book hack

The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge

Michel Foucault

5 mins

3 key insights

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This canonical and enormously influential work examines entangled questions of sexuality and power, and the evolution of their fixed relationship throughout history.


The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge

The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge

by Michel Foucault


In speaking ceaselessly about sex, are we freer in our desires and acts? How have discourses of sexuality functioned as forms of power? In the first volume of The History of Sexuality, entitled The Will to Knowledge and first published in 1976, Michel Foucault analyses attitudes, behaviors, and expressions of sexuality from the 17th century to the 20th.

Foucault was an influential and radical French philosopher, social scientist, and historian, and the author of numerous acclaimed books. A key thinker in French poststructuralism, Foucault is renowned for his brilliant analyses of institutional power and how it structures and organizes identity and society.

Foucault challenges the assumption that Victorian society was sexually repressed, arguing that this era sparked the explosion of sex as a topic to be studied as a science, rather than as something pleasurable. Enduringly relevant in a society devoted to discussing sex and sexuality as identity markers, The History of Sexuality series remains an indispensable guide.

Favorite quote

Why do we say, with so much passion and so much resentment that we are repressed? ... What led us to show, ostentatiously, that sex is something we hide, to say it is something we silence?

- Michel Foucault

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