Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Will to Knowledge” as Want to Read:
The Will to Knowledge
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Will to Knowledge (The History of Sexuality #1)

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  10,142 ratings  ·  378 reviews
Why has there been such an explosion of discussion about sex in the west since the 17th century? Here, one of France's greatest intellectuals explores the evolving social, economic and political forces that have shaped our attitudes to sex. In a book that is at once controversial and seductive, Foucault describes how we are in the process of making a science of sex which i ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 29th 1998 by Penguin Books Ltd (first published 1976)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Will to Knowledge, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Will to Knowledge

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jun 16, 2013 Warwick rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: nobody whatsoever
This is a perfect example of the kind of writing characterised by Clive James as prose that ‘scorns the earth for fear of a puncture’. Foucault may be able to think – it's not easy to tell – but he certainly can't write.

Everywhere there is an apparent desire to render a simple thought impenetrable. When he wants to suggest that the modern world has imposed on us a great variety in the ways we talk about sex, he must refer to ‘a regulated and polymorphous incitement to discourse’. When he advance
Disappointing, esp. after reading a masterpiece like Discipline and Punish. This book consists of a serious of loosely connected, and individually incomplete meditations on various topics, that are intended to serve (not very successfully, imo) as a prolgomena to a history of sexuality. Indeed, the project was abandoned (what was eventually publishd as vols. 2-3 was part of a newly and differently conceived project begun several years later), proving that the current work was a failure.

It shoul
um. what can i say about this book that hasnt already been said? i read it my second year of college and it blew my mind, and in a good way, unlike kant, who made me cry actual tears in overwhelming frustration. foucaults ability to trace the burgeoning relationship between science and sexuality, the changes in the ways of perceiving a womans body, the notion of the creation of (a) sexuality, and, of course, the dynamics of power and discourse, are nothing short of brilliant in this classic stud ...more
A much more difficult Foucault - and not nearly as interesting as his history of madness. He seems to take a long time to get started and does seem to repeat himself an awful lot.

All the same, the ideas around the difference between Western and Eastern notions of sexuality are well with thinking about. Essentially Eastern sexuality is an erotic thing - something understood through experience. Western sexuality is 'scientific' in the sense that it only makes sense once we can talk about it.

Asam Ahmad
The History of Sexuality is not really a history of sexuality. It is rather a genealogical study of a specific historical, political & discursive construction called ‘sexuality’ – a construction that has been deployed since its inception to police bodies and to service the social, political & economic exigencies of power.

Foucault begins by questioning why we so ardently believe that our sexuality is repressed – why we think 'confessing our sex' is a liberatory or even revolutionary acti
Membaca buku ini pas dengan momennya. Karena seperti kita ketahui bersama, beberapa minggu terakhir ini, kita bisa menyaksikan betapa kekuasaan mampu menggapai, menembus dan mengontrol individu sampai pada kenikmatan-kenikmatan yang paling intim. Tanpa perlu saya sebutkan siapa aktor individu tersebut, kita dipahamkan dari peristiwa ini, bahwa di seputar hubungan intim itu telah dibangun perlengkapan serta mesin untuk memproduksi kebenaran. Artinya seks ternyata bukan hanya masalah sensasi denga ...more
Ali Ben
Why one more review?

Reading our comrades' review, one is very surprised. First of all, many seem to think this book "outdated", which is quite surprising - towards Foucault's writings, the question probably is if we failed the test of time, rather than if he did...

More interesting, most seem to be deceived by the title, and assume this is a book about "sexuality".

Indeed, the discourse on sexuality (Victorian Era, confession, psychoanalysis, etc.) forms its background. The real subject, however,
Kristen Shaw
In the words of my professor, "we're living in a post-Foucauldian world, so this will seem really self-evident, but that doesn't mean its right." Coming from that angle, I've been reading from a very critical position. I like Foucault's thesis and his examination seems pretty exhaustive, at least historically. I'm really caught on the discussion of the bourgeoisie and proletariat 'sexual bodies.' Foucault's statement that the technology of sexuality and proliferation of sexual power discourses w ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Caterina rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caterina by: Patrick
"The aim of this series of studies? To transcribe into history the fable of Les Bijoux indiscrets. Among its many emblems, our society wears that of the talking sex. In the space of a few centuries, a certain inclination has led us to direct the question of who we are, to sex … The West has managed … to bring us almost entirely—our bodies, our minds, our individuality, our history—under the sway of a logic of concupiscence and desire. . . . Sex, the explanation for everything.” (pp. 77-78)

In the
The History of Sexuality is a history with little to no citation. What struck me as particularly frustrating with Foucault in Discipline and Punish is also present here. Whereas I have some understanding of legal history to recognize the generalities and oversimplified principles operating within his summary of criminal law, I don’t have the same background in gender studies or the equivalent. Undoubtedly, he sketches the evolution of societal response to sexuality in a hurried outline, but I ca ...more
Reading this for my Materialist Workshop/Reading Group. We've delved into Birth of the Clinic, a few of his Lectures, and the three volumes of History of Sexuality. Foucault said that History of Sexuality was supposed to be his magnum opus. It took him nearly a decade to complete, and it is comprised mainly of 'Big Ideas,' in the sense that Foucault often forgets to flesh out the details of his work. He paints in broad brush strokes, and I attribute this lack of detail to his burgeoning status a ...more
Erik Graff
Jun 15, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Foucault fans
Recommended to Erik by: Karen Engdahl
Shelves: history
I read this while visiting friends in Springfield, Vermont, mostly on their porch and outside the town's sole cafe. The reading occurred after the completion of Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death, another book concerned with the liberatory and repressive potentials of sexuality.

My intellectual interest in sex stems in part from the recognition of how references to it are used to manipulate. Advertising is a conspicuous example, but the manipulatory sexualization of society is far broader and m
Foucault's "History of Sexuality" was assigned twice over the course of my semester; for one class, our theme is the intersection between queer and race theories; for the other, a strict literary (theory) methods foundation. As such, we discussed the text in two very different ways for each of the classes, with one debate focusing largely on the absence of race in Foucault's history; the other, on conceptions of power in the text, and their relation to Foucault's "What Is an Author?" Nevertheles ...more
the failure of semiotics and semiology is not complete yet. the use of words to replace true symbols points to the inward navel gazing of READERS, who READ into things, not study the biostructure (or rather the biogenetic structures) of form, movement, semiologists seem to be unaware of the myths that suffuse the very words they employ to dissect other more sophisticated structures. indeed cosmopolitan, the craft is wedded to tools born in the lit criticism freud used and called psychoanalysis. ...more
a little repetitive. revolutionary, apparently.

Foucault claims that before the Victorian age, people's sex wasn't a source of their identity. You could have sex with dudes without being gay, and I guess you could have sex with rocks without being a perv.

the 18th century invented the scrutiny of sex, and by creating categories of sexual types, people began policing their own behavior. This possibly benefited the economy by establishing more productive social institutions.

The consequences are th
Jen Seman
After reading this, I can't read anything else without seeing his influence. The relationships between power/knowledge and the construction of sexuality...he turns assumptions upside down and offers a different way of interpreting events, especially commonly held ideas about power relationships. For example, he dismisses the idea that victorian values repressed sexuality. He would insist that just the opposite is true - that the Victorian age offered multiple sites and institutions which increas ...more
There's some interesting juxtapositions here, but if you've read a reasonable amount of Freud, had some early exposure to Thomas Kuhn, and plowed through a lot of Max Weber (as Foucault has, compare "Discipline & Punish" to the 2 Volume "Economy & Society" and the more difficult "Methodology of the Social Sciences"), there's nothing especially new here. The punch line is interesting, and I give Foucault credit for his striking formulation of it, but I'm not blown away.
ازپایان سده شانزدهم بدین سو، "به گفتمان درآوردن" سکس نه از فرایند محدودیت، بلکه برعکس از سازوکار تحریک فزاینده تبعیت می کند، که نشان می دهد تکنیک های قدرتی که بر سکس اعمال می شود، نه از اصل انتخاب سختگیرانه، بلکه از اصل انتشار و اشاعه سکسوالیته های چند ریختی تبعیت می کند و نشان می دهد که اراده به دانستن دربرابر تابویی رفع ناشدنی متوقف نشده است، بلکه برساخت علمی از سکسوالیته اصرار داشته است. ...صفحه20
a good book to read in a public café, wherein meatheads of any gender might discern the title and proclaim, as happened to me, that "y'all don't need no books for that because I can teachy'all." I can affirm that, whereas a picture is worth a thousand words, a meathead is worth a thousand books.
The more I get angry at this book, the more I become intrigued.
Read for my Queer Studies class. A study of sexuality, bodies, pleasures, institutions, discourse, knowledge, power, 'truth', and all the relations therein. It definitely changed the way I think. He says in the book that the history of Western sexuality is really a history of discourse, and that is what you should be expecting (as he hammers home: sexuality is discursively produced).
It can be frustrating because it's a book based around ideas; the abstract and not the material. Somewhere in ther
The Awdude
This book just might be one of the most important contributions to Western thought ever written. Every page is completely fascinating. I couldn't put it down, and I'm actually sad it's already over. Sadness is normal when experiencing theory, but usually not sadness as a result of the experience ending. That kind of sadness, for me at least, has traditionally been associated with having to leave the world of a piece of fiction. When I finished reading David Foster Wallace's three story collectio ...more
Mike Hayden
Great book except his chapters 'Objective' and 'Method' that due to their ambigouity and poor separation of law and normativity through instrumental reason, as well as his strange deployment of causal-language, and hi unfortunate focus on 'discourse' weaken his overall argument and historization of sexuality. Remarkable though is his geneology of sexuality and how this is not equivolent to sex or pleasure or desire. Truly a remarkable act of close reading into the creation of the 20th century.
Nikolay Mollov
Изследването на Мишел Фуко в първи том на История на сексуалността. Волята за знание поглежда към периода от 17 до 19 век (както и лаконично споменаване на 20 век). Идеините насоки на труда са свързани с очертаването на промените, настъпили в сексуалността по време на разглеждания период. Някои от основните понятия в инструментариума на Фуко са: власт, знание, дискурс, диспозитив, анатомополитика, биовласт, биополитика, биоистория. Чрез тези понятия Фуко изгражда основните си идеи като очертава ...more
buku ini saya dapatkan dari undi gunawan yang memberikan begitu saja ke saya tanpa ganti apa-apa.
itu orang baek bener!
rasanya ini sama dengan yang diterbitkan oleh gramedia dulu. penerjemahnya sama [rahayu s.hidayat:], penyuntingnya juga masih jean couteau. cuma, edisi ini covernya kereen..
ini adalah jilid 1 dari ketiga jilid dalam seri 'the history of sexuality'
[eh, terjemahan indonesia ini langsung dari prancisnya, bukan lewat english. makanya didukung oleh lembaga indonesia-p
Dolor Nocturno
Foucault hace un análisis histórico de la sexualidad. Dice que el grado de represión que hay sobre este tema no se debe a otra cosa que al control burgués sobre nuestro ser, sobre nuestros deseos y nuestros placeres. La supuesta falta de moralidad que tiene hablar de “eso” es simplemente eso, algo falso, algo impuesto culturalmente por los sectores dominantes para que el individuo se enfoque en lo que éstos quieren. En síntesis, "el poder es represivo siempre, y reprime hasta en los actos más in ...more
Fulca Veda
Ahhhhh i actually stuck doing my final paper, i get more and more brain damage learning feminist hahahah kidding, i like it alot! Anyway, this book is such a good introduction in producing true discourses concerning sexuality. But, i was wondering how my boy/male-friend thought on "wacana" of sexuality as it was still "tabu" in indonesia. Unfortunately i still can't find how to relate them on a mere-local-eastern-culture, how to differ the word of sexuality upon gender and sex in a patriarchy-ro ...more
As a student of medieval history and not of modern philosophy or societal topics, I knew from the outset that this book would likely not be something that I could easily digest and embrace. But, given that it was a required reading for an introductory graduate course, I tried my best to keep a neutral and open mind in hopes of gaining some insight into historiography or writing methodology. Initially, Foucault caught my attention enough that I could see the value of the reading. However, each be ...more
What I was convinced of
the “repressive hypothesis” has serious shortcomings—the past several centuries really did feature too much and too many kinds of discourse about sex (whether invoking the term “sex” or not) for the repressive hypothesis to make sense
discourse can and does powerfully shape individual psychology, behavior, life experience, life assessment, even what we think of as knowledge and truth itself and does so with sex via “sexuality.”
we (perhaps less now than when he was writing b
This is the first book I've read by Michel Foucault. I don't know why he is called "post-modernist" because the ideas in this book are influenced by and are compatible with Marxism. The book is full of Marxist concepts like labour power and its means of reproduction and he talks about the sexuality of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat showing that the author is familiar with class politics.

The final few chapters are interesting because a new concept, biopolitics, is talked about. Biopolitics
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
sexuality 1 32 Aug 31, 2011 01:04AM  
  • Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex"
  • Epistemology of the Closet
  • Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
  • Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times
  • In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives
  • Of Grammatology
  • No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive
  • Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics
  • Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography
  • This Sex Which Is Not One
  • Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life
  • The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life
  • Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud
  • Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature
  • Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title "History of Systems of Thought," and lectured at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.

Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences and the prison sys
More about Michel Foucault...
Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language The History of Sexuality 2: The Use of Pleasure

Share This Book

“Where there is power, there is resistance.” 187 likes
“The appearance in nineteenth-century psychiatry, jurisprudence, and literature of a whole series of discourses on the species and subspecies of homosexuality, inversion, pederasty, and "psychic hermaphroditism" made possible a strong advance of social controls into this area of "perversity"; but it also made possible the formation of a "reverse" discourse: homosexuality began to speak in its own behalf, to demand that its legitimacy or "naturality" be acknowledged, often in the same vocabulary, using the same categories by which it was medically disqualified.” 22 likes
More quotes…