If psychoanalysis loomed large in Foucault's concerns about the developing disciplinary society, it was because it was one of the disciplines which has had a decisive role in constituting the modern subject, which has shaped its very deployment and the mode in which it is disciplined. According to Louis Sass, "psychoanalysis is by far the most influential contemporary vision of human nature...." It shapes the way in which we today understand the personal domain (self, self-identity and subjectivity) as well as the relation between self-organization and the contemporary social and political worlds. Moreover, the knowledge proffered by psychoanalysis presupposes the person of desire, whose essential truth lies in her sexuality, and which is revealed through a confession, a verbalization, brought within the confines of a rigorous scientificity. In addition, as Francoise Meltzer has argued, "Psychoanalysis has infiltrated such diverse areas as literature (to which it owes its myths), linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, history, feminism, psychology, archeology, neurology, to name some. And it is in the notion of 'some,' perhaps, that lies the crux of the problem. For there is in psychoanalysis an overt conviction that it exists as the ultimate totality, of which everything else is a part." Beyond the vast scope of its theoretical claims, psychoanalysis also shapes the therapies which are deployed by the health professions: a s Eli Zaretsky has pointed out, "... all forms of psychotherapy, other than drugs or behavioral modification, are based on some variation of psychoanalysis. Finally, the modern subject, in the deployment of which, and in whose therapeutic treatment, psychoanalysis has played so important a role, has itself assumed an unexamined, taken-for-granted character; its truth is taken to be universal, and as such, it is rarely questioned.
Foucault's concerns about psychoanalysis were linked to his overall concern to alert us to the dangers involved in that which is taken to be self-evident, universal, and necessary. Action based on the unexamined, taken-for-granted, assumptions implicit in our practices and thinking can have painful consequences. For, as William E. Connolly has pointed out, Foucault believed that it was the "arbitrary cruelty installed in regular institutional arrangements taken to embody the Law, the Good, or the Normal " that was most dangerous. These institutional arrangements are an integral part of the developing disciplinary society; their cruelty inseparable from it. In the case of psychoanalysis this "arbitrary cruelty" refers to the operations of a mode of thinking that creates the binary opposition between normality and pathology. This "dividing practice," to use a Foucauldian trope, is dangerous because it judges individuals as "insiders" (normal) and "outsiders" (pathological). Such an ordering procedure in effect dictates what an individual should be, namely normal, and then, according to John Caputo, develops "administrative practices and professional competencies to see to it that such individuals are in fact produced....Individuals who are specified by the expert, the professional, as pathological come to understand themselves as "sick," and this designation may then become the basis for them not only being stigmatized, but feeling themselves to be, and understanding themselves as, perverted. What is no less troubling is the situation of those individuals who do not see themselves as "sick" but who are nonetheless stigmatized by virtue of being so classified. As David Halperin has asserted, these individuals are unable to speak the truth about their own lives because they have "been denied a rational basis on which to speak at all," that power having been arrogated by the expert, the psychoanalyst.
Foucault's Interpretation of Modernity
Indeed, one of the leitmotivs of Foucault's treatment of psychoanalysis as a manifestation of the developing disciplinary society is his thoroughgoing critique of the repressive hypothesis. In the broadest sense the repressive hypothesis, which is integral to the master narrative of psychoanalysis, and to the liberatory schemas of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse, which are based on the existence of the Freudian desiring subject, insists that in the West, until the beginning of the seventeenth century, men engaged in "both a non-repressed sexual practice, an open and above-board sexual practice, and a free and joyful prattle, a kind of discourse free of reticence and disguises, about this sexuality." By the nineteenth century, the Victorian night had descended, and, according to the repressive hypothesis, sexuality, its practice, and its discourse, had been repressed, silenced. In his histories, Foucault has shown that the nineteenth century actually saw a preoccupation with sexuality and its manifold forms, an overwhelming concern with sexuality on the part of the biological and medical disciplines. What concerned Foucault, then, was the deployment of sexuality, and the forms this deployment has taken in modernity. As he contended: "It's not a question of denying sexual misery, but it's also not a question of explaining it negatively by repression. The whole problem is to understand which are the positive mechanisms that, producing sexuality in such a fashion, result in misery."