For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The history of sexuality: An introduction, volume I

by Foucault, Michel (1978)

Key Passage

There is little question that one of the primordial forms of class consciousness is the affirmation of the body; at least, this was the case for the bourgeoisie during the eighteenth century. It converted the blue blood of the nobles into a sound organism and a healthy sexuality. One understands why it took such a longtime and was so unwilling to acknowledge that other classes had a body and a sex-precisely those classes it was exploiting. The living conditions that were dealt to the proletariat, particularly in the first half of the nineteenth century, show there was anything but concern for its body and sex:l it was of little importance whether those people lived or died, since their reproduction was something that took care of itself inany case. Conflicts were necessary (in particular, conflicts over urban space: cohabitation, proximity, contamination, epidemics, such as the cholera outbreak of 1 832, or again, prostitution and venereal diseases) in order for the proletariat to be granted a body and a sexuality; economic emergencies had to arise (the development of heavy industry with the need for a stable and competent labor force, the obligationto regulate the population flow and apply demographic controls); lastly, there had to be established a whole technology of control which made it possible to keep that body and sexuality, finally conceded to them, under surveillance (schooling, the politics of housing, public hygiene, institutions of relief and insurance, the general medicalization of the population, in short, an entire administrative and technical machinery made it possible to safely import the deployment of sexuality into the exploited class; the latter no longer risked playing an assertive class role opposite the bourgeoisie; it would remain the instrument of the bourgeoisie's hegemony). Whence no doubt the proletariat's hesitancy to  accept this deployment and its tendency to say that thissexuality was the business of the the bourgeoisie and did not concern it. (p.126)


Foucault, Sexuality, Repression, Power, Resistance, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism


History of Sexuality, Foucault Citations

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