Democracy, Gunpowder, Literacy and Privacy
In an important sense, privacy is a modern invention. Medieval people had no concept of privacy. They also had no actual privacy. Nobody was ever alone. No ordinary person had private space. Houses were tiny and crowded. Everyone was embedded in a face-to-face community. Privacy, as idea and reality, is the creation of a modern bourgeois society. Above all, it is a creation of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century it became even more of a reality. [p. 258]
In a time when amorphous “rights” to privacy seem to be multiplying like wildflowers, this is an important insight from Friedman. In my opinion, many of the creative privacy theories being concocted today are often based on false nostalgia about some forgotten time in the past when we supposedly all had our own little quiet spaces that were completely free from privacy intrusions. But as Friedman makes clear, this is largely a myth. It’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate issues out there today. But it’s important that we place modern privacy issues in a larger historical context and understand how many of today’s concerns pale in comparison to the problems of the past.
So writes Adam Theierer in “Privacy as ‘a modern invention’,” quoting Stanford law prof Lawrence Friedman.
Medieval people also didn’t have democracy, gunpowder or widespread literacy. That makes none of them the creation of “a modern bourgeois society.”
It’s a tad embarrassing, really.
Maybe, with more time, there would be more context which I could find.