Foucault and Agency

". . .the will to knowledge has not come to a halt in the face of a taboo
that must be lifted, but has persisted in constituting - despite many
mistakes, of course - a science of sexuality." (The History of Sexuality,
Vol. 1, pp.12-13)

Who acts in Foucault's world?

He is mute on this key point. When he speaks of the will to knowledge,
whose will is he talking about? Society's? History's? Humanity's?

He frequently speaks of power as if it were capable of action. "These
polymorphous conducts were actually extracted from people's bodies and from
their pleasures; or rather, they were solidified in them; they were drawn
out, revealed, isolated, intensified, incorporated, by multifarious power
devices." (Vol.1, pp 48-49) How are "multifarious power devices" capable of
doing this? How is it possible that "power devices" can draw out, reveal,
isolate, intensify, and incorporate? How can the will to knowledge DO this?

It seems to me that agency has almost everything to do with desire, and
that desire is the principle driving force behind the will to knowledge.
The real question is, Is this a universal phenomenon? Does Lacan figure as
a backdrop in his thinking here? Is desire something which characterizes
"the psychic subject"? If so, is this view of power/knowledge ahistorical?
Or does history form around the will to knowledge as an expression of the
psychic subject's desire to know, that what "it" knows changes, but that
what it produces as knowledge is in response to an ontological, even
primary state, the desire to know?

Can we begin to formulate such an ontology of desire?


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