An Open Game: Subjectivity, Sexuality, and Resistance in Foucault's History of Sexuality, Volume 1


  • Will Tilleczek University of King's College


Foucault, Subjectivity, Knowledge, Power, Sexuality


In The Use of Pleasure, Foucault identifies three axes that he claims have been the methodological foundation for his entire study on sexuality: power, knowledge, and subjectivity.  However, it is unclear how this third axis is at work in the first volume of the series.  In this paper, I will argue that subjectivity is indeed central to the first volume, though neither as the free self-relation that it was in ancient Greece, nor as an entirely over-determined axis, dominated by and reducible to knowledge-power. Rather, subjectivity is a crucial and distinct moment in the formation of the experience of sexuality, but one which nonetheless must always be understood in its close relationship to knowledge and power.  Ultimately, knowledge and power condition the self-relationship immanent in the experience of sexuality, but subjectivity is not for that reason a mere facade of power-knowledge.  To be conditioned by power is not to be determined by it.