Foucault’s Misunderstanding of Repression


So, I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago on why I was studying psychoanalysis and attempted to elucidate some concepts that are often poorly understood. I tried to counter Foucault’s understanding of the repressive hypothesis that he believed was false because his analysis unearthed a plethora of discourses of sexuality that had proliferated during Freud’s era.

Zizek drives this home in First as Tragedy then as Farce,

“This is why Lacan claimed that Marx had already invented the (Freudian) notion of a symptom: for both Marx and Freud, the way to the truth of a system (of society, of the psyche) leads through what necessarily appears as a “pathological” marginal and accidental distortion of this system: slips of tongue, dreams, symptoms, economic crises. The Freudian Unconscious is thus “invisible” in an exactly homologous way, which is why there is no place for it in Foucault’s edifice. This is why Foucault’s rejection of what he calls the Freudian “repression hypothesis” – his notion of regulatory power discourses which generate sexuality in the very act of describing and regulating it-misses the (Freudian) point. Freud and Lacan were well aware that there is no repression without the return of the repressed; they were well aware that the repressive discourse generates what it represses. However, what this discourse represses is not what it appears to repress, not what it itself takes to be the threatening X it seeks to control. The figures of “sexuality” it portrays as the threat to be controlled-such as the figure of the Woman, whose uncontrolled sexuality is a threat to the masculine order-are themselves fantasmatic mystifications. Rather, what this discourse “represses” is (among other things) its own contami¬≠nation by what it tries to control-say, the way the sacrifice of sexuality sexualizes sacrifice itself, or the manner in which the effort to control sexuality sexualizes this controlling activity itself. Sexuality is thus, of course, not “invisible” – it is controlled and regulated. What is “invisible” is the sexualization of this very work of control: not the elusive object we try to control, but the mode of our own participation within it.” (101-102)


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