Determining the boundaries of the public and private spheres

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


It has been suggested that ‘[u]ntil the nineteenth century, the ideal of family privacy, an ideal central to the philosophy underlying the liberal state, largely shielded the family from state intervention’ (Diduck and Kaganas, 2012, p547). Whilst nineteenth century English law provided, and indeed still provides no explicit protection for family privacy (beyond that now offered by Article 8 of the European Convention) it is arguable that an ideology or ethic of privacy still underpins the law and aids in its interpretation. This ethic or ideology of family privacy is founded on certain key assumptions; that the family is synonymous with the private sphere (Fineman, 1999; Fahey, 1995) and that the home is a private place, a refuge from society (O’Donovan, 1985). It is arguable, however, that as family members increasingly volunteer family information, sharing intimate details of family life online and in public, these longstanding assumptions about the private nature of the family and the inhabitants of the private sphere need to be reconsidered/revisited. With increasing use of new technology qs to be asked about whether ideology or ethic of privacy still should underpin the law – alternatively does the law need to develop to protect family members information – traditional social and legal notions of privacy adequate? It is of course true that that many different conceptions of the public and private sphere exist. For some the public sphere is a world of debate (see for example, Aristotle, Arendt and Habermas); for others the public sphere is synonymous with the state (Fineman) and the state stands in opposition both to the family and the market (Gavison, 1993). For some there is in fact no separate private sphere; the state defines those aspects of life which it considers to be ‘private’ and not to be subject to state intervention, the private domain is ‘a socially constructed, historically variable and inevitably political decision’ (Rose 1987) Ultimately this paper seeks to determine, in the twenty first century where does the boundary of the private sphere lie and should we still equate the notion of the private sphere with family and the home?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015
EventSLSA Conference - Warwick
Duration: 1 Apr 2015 → …


ConferenceSLSA Conference
Period1/04/15 → …
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