Playing games/playing us: Foucault on sadomasochism

Philosophy and Social Criticism 33 (5):531-561 (2007)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The impact of Foucault's work can still be felt across a range of academic disciplines. It is nevertheless important to remember that, for him, theoretical activity was intimately related to the concrete practices of self-transformation; as he acknowledged: `I write in order to change myself.' 1 This avowal is especially pertinent when considering Foucault's work on the relationship between sex and power. For Foucault not only theorized about this topic; he was also actively involved in the S&M subculture of the 1970s. Although his explicit discussions of S&M are somewhat piecemeal, in this article I will show how they provide a useful point of access into his broader conception of power relations. Having first reconstructed Foucault's quasi-Sartrean account of creative self-transformation — specifically through one's sexuality — I will then explain why his defence of S&M (as embodying `strategic' power) is insufficiently sensitive to the inherent ambiguities of this `game'. Key Words: consent • desire • identity • limits • pleasure • power • role-play • subjectivity • trust.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,347

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Power, subjectivity, and agency: Between Arendt and Foucault.Amy Allen - 2002 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 10 (2):131 – 149.
Understanding Foucault.Geoff Danaher - 2000 - Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Edited by Tony Schirato & Jen Webb.
Foucault, psychology and the analytics of power.Derek Hook - 2007 - New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.
Foucault.José Guilherme Merquior - 1985 - Berkeley: University of California Press.
Power, action, signs: Between Peirce and Foucault.Andrew Garnar - 2006 - Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 42 (3):347-366.
Foucault amongst the theologians.Stephen Carr - 2001 - Sophia 40 (2):31-45.
A Foucault primer: discourse, power, and the subject.A. W. McHoul - 1993 - Dunedin, N.Z.: University of Otago Press. Edited by Wendy Grace.
The aesthetics of existence in the work of Michel Foucault.Marli Huijer - 1999 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 25 (2):61-85.


Added to PP

239 (#85,643)

6 months
28 (#110,159)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Bob Plant
University of Aberdeen (PhD)

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references