Power, freedom, and individuality: Foucault and sexual difference [Book Review]

Human Studies 28 (1):1 - 14 (2005)
This paper offers a detailed account of Foucaults ethical and political notion of individuality as presented in his late work, and discusses its relationship to the feminist project of the theory of sexual difference. I argue that Foucaults elaboration of the classical ethos of care for the self opens the way for regarding the I-woman as an ethical, political and aesthetic self-creation. However, it has significant limitations that cannot be ignored. I elaborate on two aspects of Foucaults avoidance of sexual difference as a relevant category for an account of political and ethical individuality, which thus implicitly associates individual agency with men. I argue that Foucault implicitly assumes the existence of an ontological desire to become engaged in political self-creation. However, the ethical position of self-knowledge and desire should be understood as a contingent option that depends on material and historical conditions for its realization. Hence, I argue that a feminist reworking of Foucaults notion of political individuality should add a substantial ethical condition to the imperative of self-knowledge and self-creation – making possible the desiring woman subject.
Keywords foucault  freedom  individuality  power  sexual difference  subjectivity
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