(＃perennial myth, political football＃ or personal necessity)
Introductory: Hegel and Hobbes.
Hegel on the public/private distinction. The Philosophy of Right (often read as the Ur-text of this issue) poses the question of the nature of this division for our epoch. Property is famously read as prior to personality (freedom) as ownership of the self (rights and duties) with private property as the post- or anti-feudal guarantee of independence; guarantee to the right to a private life, by offering economic freedom, just as independence in the modern epoch (not last in terms of gender) is the function of having a job and not being (directly) dependent on others for basic economic survival. This latter however still leaves one in thrall to assorted forms of management (not to mention the vagaries of the economic cycle), whence, in the modern historical equivalent to the 17-18th century escape from the feudal pyramid, the possession of private property (not least the means of earning a living) can still be read as an aid to personal freedom 每 a category of property perhaps standing between property for power and property for consumption. If private is taken to mean the family, then the idea is not entirely new; the history of reproduction offers a variety of relations where a couple with or without their immediate family are felt to require their own space apart from that of the group (＆even＊ tribal cultures observe this requirement); then there is the family as unit of ownership, economic activity and status 每 however the move to the nuclear family as basic social unit would appear to offer a new situation regarding the fostering of ＆privacy＊. This is the condition of the modern family, now augmented, but not replaced by the post-modern family (product of divorce, remarriage, gay marriage, civil unions, etc.) on occasion even offering a new form of extended family.
Another Ur-text for our epoch is to be found in the philosophy of Hobbes, best read as the modern founder of a tradition that (encompassing Hegel) leads to Bourdieu, with esteem and status, ＆distinction＊ or ＆recognition＊, as fundamental in the relations of self and others (and one＊s own family and others). This is a competitive relation, implying that the conflict of individual with individual or family with family, may turn into a conflict between public order and the private individual. The potential for agon operates on all levels, as the conflict of all with all is generalized as the basic level of human existence, whilst, on the particular level, private belief comes into conflict with public order. In this sense the private (self) is always in conflict with the public (other). So bringing out the role of personal agon or recognition-seeking, from out of the shadow of others＃ (class or caste, family, gender, generation). The private is read as acceptable (as it was not to Plato) precisely for as long as it remained in private; in the interests of public stability, there were to be no organisations active in public (if this sounds familiar, it is part of the recipe for all totalitarian and neo-feudal solutions to social and economic conflict).
Clearing the ground＃
It begins with a binary: ＆public/private＊. Always already a bad sign. At its best it means false: but inescapable. Useful, but limiting; go to co-conditioning, co-implicating, (＆out＊ always from ＆in＊, ＆in＊ always from ＆out＊). Parameters shifting according to epoch, situation, context＃ but with no ＆beyond＊, no ground for an external panoramic view! So both ＆reflecting＊ and distorting; a difference both findable and created＃ partaking of both objectivity and subjectivity; of the perception of reality now, and of our memories as encoded in language, and so our cultural expectations (＆pre-programmed＊, so to speak). The binary concept or relation, however one looks at it, is a product of an ideological point of view: A ^ ~A divide a continuum, where an element must therefore be in A v ~A; the distributions of positives and negatives already indicate a starting point; A v B is more objective, but requires an external, overall, point of view (the implication is that the A v ~A is an internal, partial, perspective, that of ＆A＊) yet, both perspectives, interior and exterior, leave one with a simple binary, a qualitative line drawn across a quantitative manifold, expressing more perhaps about the interest of the observer than the nature of the object. Furthermore both these perspectives show a propensity to logical contradiction (as we find at the end of any logical chain, no matter how carefully constructed, the axioms give away the position): the internal lights the path to self-contradiction; the external to an infinity of meta-sets＃ Either way the binary ＆always already＊ indicates an ideological point of view.
Finding a binary in order to overcome it! (First strategy of religion and ideology; the world must be declared divided, fallen, in order to be repaired＃).
Note the poverty of ＆interested approaches＊ (religious, fundamentalist, ideological, metaphysical). Beginning with ＆bourgeois versus proletarian＊ as private versus public (a marriage of binaries). The middle class (although the b-word should mean, ＆boss＊, perhaps with a historically, but still economically, inspired, extension to shop keepers) is read as evolving the private, initially read as good as a continuation of the ＆civilising process＊, protecting, but (especially for women) sometimes too enclosing, separating, continuing feudal anti-feminine segregation, versus the ＆proletarian＊, as the class which is forced to be public (or ＆the people＊) due to over-crowding, slums, mass production - a birth (from poverty) of a new public sphere＃ The latter pair (public, proletarian) proffering a lazy sense of collectivist as ＆good＊, as ＆beyond＊ the previous dominant mapping of opposition of private and public space and their apposite modes of behaviour (the idea here, that roughly behind much ＆left＊ or ＆oppositional＊ thought, is of a going beyond, a healing, or ＆moving on＊ as with the overcoming of private property (which one suspects is the real target). This sense of overcoming has, together with the requisite amount of historical irony, been overcome by history itself. More precise would be to say that we find different types and gradations of the public/private distinction in differing classes and communities (and according the degrees of education or manners), and even generational and individual distinctions (this is both more precise and less rhetorical 每 mapping a binary onto a binary is usually a sign of laziness as well as of an ideological fundamentalism (and in both cases a particularly empty figure of style)).
Axiom: Nothing is that simplistic!
One putative ＆over-coming＊ of the ＆bourgeois＊ public/private distinction, also envisioned as overcoming the class agon of industrial capitalism, turned out to have been neo-feudal in origin and result, as the blame for the fall from organic unity was blamed on middle class spatial mores and morality (see esp. the ＆populism＊ of Bakhtin and Benjamin, and the sociology of -the latter- Sartre). Indeed the public/private division, as with that of art and popular culture, ＆the two halves＃＊ (and to some degree mapping on to each other) were a typical ＆culturalist＊ feature of Frankfurt School criticism - and mark of their Romantic origin (Adorno should have known better; see his correspondence with Benjamin, and his comments on the redemptive power of intimacy). Result: yet another ＆looking back＊ masquerading as ＆looking forwards＊＃ showing that, yet again, it＊s easier to recycle the past in dealing with the present than to think straight ahead＃
So showing the insistence of Romantic ideology; all 19th century escapism proceeds from the notion of the Fall! The mythic organic whole that appeared in some forms of Medievalism, was repeated in many forms of totalitarianism, ＆left＊ or ＆right＊, as well as in thinkers associated with either camp (Benjamin, Bakhtin, Bloch, Herder, Heidegger, Schmitt). But all of which required the exclusion and excision of a portion of the population ＃ ＆the accursed share＊ given up, or sacrificed, on the altar of lost unity.
Binary obsessions: left and right (most notably at their extremes) seem to be in a contest to generate mutually exclusive (but often strangely similar, mirror image) myths about this, as other areas of human life. Mutually reflecting. Mutually obfuscating.
To overcome, or＃ see this putative overcoming itself as part of the problem (so like subject /object and other fundamental diremptions) making of the public/private division, something problematic - but insurmountable. So it is that one of life＊s little dualisms occasionally, and with great optimism, is finally united into a monism 每 which is then quickly found to be too limiting＃ too excluding of various cogent aspects of human experience (or just humans); ＆bridged＊ only at considerable cost (usually the loss of one or the other, the subsumption or dominance of one by the other).
Philosophy＊s favourite and eternally returning, categories, or we might say, metaphysics＊ favourite, binaries, are all to be found here. The really important debate lies in the definition of necessary versus unnecessary (as in, avoidable and unavoidable) binaries and their role in defining an epoch and defining an ideology. Insofar as self and object also divide the self, as subject or mind and body, then our object side is on the side of the other, Other, thing, matter, etc., which we must recognize, or remain in what at first seems to be a personal solipsism, but, in reality, somehow always turns out to be a political and cultural solipsism (refusal of the other brings with it, its own brand of politics). Yet does not this acceptance of gift, the gift of the other, and of the other in the self, even as the self (as mind to matter, or ＆I＊ and ＆me＊), help us re-unite self with the body, the preconscious (our physiology, biology and chemistry) as also being our ＆other＊ and so part of us as ＆object＊? This relation to otherness may also be read as representing a kind of proto-public/private division, the degree zero of what is felt as public and private: private thoughts and feelings versus our public face＃ (a sense of ＆face＊ endlessly under negotiation, or ＆in process＊, as in Hegel＊s recognition dialectic and Hobbes＊ struggle for position, updated into Bourdieu＊s evolution of distinctions). So configuring the sense(s) of the following sequence of our binary thought habits: in/out, self/other, subject/object, mind/body, representation/thing, idea/matter, language/materiality, Culture/Nature, etc.). Another binary (or set of binaries) whose spell is hard to exorcise, the exercise of which it is hard to dispel＃ (self/other(s) naturally leads to individual/community, and we are at the doors, if not already through them, of at least one version of ＆private and public＊＃)
Are binaries then such a bad thing? If they rarely represent real entities＃ yet they often do represent an abstraction of actually experienced divisions and not only purely ideological divisions of actuality. If they return, or appear indispensible to the thinking through of a process＃ but these are generally indicative of the human condition as experienced as mind, but understood as matter... So perhaps binaries may even be useful (a good thing): as in repressive societies, where ＆in private＊ becomes freedom; by contrast, in advanced societies, ＆in public＊ requires some modicum of manners＃ (＆slob out＊ at home＃ ＆in private＊.) Certainly on closer examination, we may find this utility of a certain kind of binary to be the case with the public/private division.
The history of cultural phenomena approach, often called, ＆genealogical＊ may be of some use here. But not in the sense of distant origin as truth or final cause (history is destiny; a type of metalepsis). Rather the analysis or contexualisation is done according to assorted power relations operating at the relevant time (or historical epoch), the impact of relations of dominance in a divided/stratified, role-governed society (class, gender, generation, family, ethnicity, etc.) - along with their discursive manifestation or apology. Public/private in an everyday tribal marriage, in the marriage of a tribal chief and daughter of a dominant family; public/private in Roman Republican times, and in Imperial Christian times; public/private in the reign of Charles the First, and in the Cromwellian Interregnum - and the terms then current used to describe this difference＃
Despite much discussion of this division as something solid (＆reified＊), received, as if without need of definition or question; we might well ask: what actually are we dealing with here? What comes to mind is, intuitively and on closer inspection, made up of a myriad of differing aspects＃
Aspects (just as a circle or sphere may be divided into two halves, and then again bisected across a number of planes, yielding number of differing aspects or surfaces＃)
Private ownership and ＆privatisation＊ (domestic as opposed to general economics); the opposite offers institutions run, directly or indirectly by the State or government, as representing the ＊public＊: however, in many countries public ownership all too often means elite ownership or disposal, the appropriation or nepotistic vampirism of leading families (＆State kleptomania＊). Because of the possibility of subsidy ＆public ownership＊ is often seen as side-stepping the influence of the mass market. ＆Private＊, however, here means institutions not individuals (so not a state institution, but nevertheless an institution or bureaucratic/stratified organization subject to the law and taxation policy of the sovereign state 每 with some attempts at escape, tax havens etc.). Despite the spread of share ownership, no real control is involved. Private in name only.
Modern technology and the self (mobile, tablet and/as computer, the increasing mediation of the web, recording and reproducing, etc.) as enabling is not somehow a new form of ＆privatisation＊, nor even (from the other side) a new form of individualization. Mediation is precisely what it does. Neither is it cause nor symptom of an increasing selfishness (in all social forms there have been those who do not give a damn for others, from criminal classes to elites, to ＆second generations＊ or ＆new-rich＊ formations). Just as, if we step back from public pronouncements on mores and morality we often find that it is the opposite private practice that predominates (this phenomena is perhaps most pronounced in neo每feudal centralized ＆collectivist＊ or ＆state-capitalist＊ states, where despite all public denial, competition and economic, individual, personal acquisitiveness, that is selfishness, are at their most ferocious＃).
Technology is however becoming private in the sense of＃ we all can have our own＃ increasingly can afford to have our own - where previous generations had to share (remember or imagine queuing at a public phone box＃). The use is individual (and perhaps customised, individuated), even if actually used for general communication. As a means of use, it＊s a question of access, of enablement (as well of speed and convenience). But also a form of making public as information passed quickly around, over distance, and, of course via the web; so part of the general exchange of information possible as part of modern mass communications, including (an epidemic of) image sharing (as an extension of our visual and recognition sense). An access to the means of mediation. All this is in the public realm, indeed constitutes a new public sphere; its extension, an extension of the sphere of communication and exchange - witness paranoid states＊ (and maybe in this respect all states are paranoid) attempts to control it.
Perhaps we still live in an epoch where public versus private ownership are key parameters defining politics; but a mix inspired by pragmatism defines most people＊s expectations: ＆if it works don＊t rock it＊＃ The rest, of whatever extreme, is ideology or metaphysics masquerading as economics (＆State＊ versus ＆Market＊ as alternative magic prescriptions or cure-alls). To tidy (or confuse) definitions: Private ownership of the means of production (etc.) or of real estate, for that matter, is a matter firmly in the public sphere. The strategies for the management of these sectors of the economy used by the general public may be decisions made privately, but they are made with an eye to the demands of the mass market if the decision makers wish their companies to survive as viable economic entities.
Exploited ambiguities of the word ＆private＊ include: internal, hidden spatial and mental/imaginary processes (＆subject＊); privacy as internal life (＆subjective＊), to secretive personal life, all in one＊s head, or point of view, to space as private, from ＆a room of one＊s own＊; to private property＃ the difference of rented and owned do not alter the sense of a ＆room＊, own space, private space, privacy (this is largely a question of evading intrusion); there can be a lack of privacy in the privately-owned home of authoritarian parents, etc＃
So the public/private issue at its most lived, most experienced level, is clearly linked to the space/place controversy. Now including the concept of ＆non-lieu＊, after Marc Aug谷, a ＆non-space＊, better translated as ＆non-place＊; a kind of pure, empty or dead space, made or adapted for transit, for leaving only, or for waiting to leave in, without any features that would entice one to stay beyond what is necessary 每 without sense of place, without the sense of a ＆genius loci＊ perhaps (but how many spaces carry this degree or intensity of feeling, amounting at times to a call for personification: whose place＃?). Perhaps Aug谷＊s binary definition is too simplistic, his pole of ＆non-place＊ too detached. The spaces he describes after all do have a variety of emotional connotations - and not all negative＃ only abstract, mathematical, quantitative space, ideal space, is like this, devoid of all sense of place (looking at the history of transit-space we see the birth of cities and ports, city centres, town and village squares, markets established on waste ground near a church or mosque, places people like to be in precisely due to their strong sense of place＃ a sense unaltered, even configured by, their status as places of transit). So alas what we have is a new metaphysical opposition, public dead ＆bad＊ space (transit) as opposed to ＆place＊ as ＆good＊ (lived, comfortable, ＆at home＊ in) - mapping space/place over public/private is a little forced, like all such overlays＃ (in practice ＆non-place＊ is reserved for modern transit hubs 每 yet these too have their admirers, and are increasingly lined with cafes and shopping outlets). If in Aug谷＊s sense ＆non-place＊ is a disease of public space; then it is the part of public space that the public would disown or avoid (the dead space below motorways or some modernist high-rises 每 yet ＆privatised＊, made ＆place＊, by squatters, migrants and the homeless). Private space by definition is owned, is ＆coloured-in＊ by its occupants, is always a kind of place＃
So within the issue of space or context: a number of approaches are possible＃
Definition. Public/private as space and as identity (the contingency of site of the performance of the self＃ the spaces forming ＆one＊). With role play as apposite to a particular context or space or as its opposite (reactive refusal of the role implication or adoption of another type of role). So not (or rarely) as ＆pure＊ performance, as ＆acting＊; but as interaction, as in using appropriate language, posture and gestures, all context specific (all space may function as a social/interactive context 每 carrying implications as to potential roles). Whence (again) Durkheim＊s ＆homo duplex＊. We may envisage a gradation from: Public space and role, the public source of the private (inner) self, as contrasted to other/s (expectations and politics, imagined or real). Public space versus private dwelling and role implication (the family). Private dwelling with/without others (individual/couple/group). Interior/exterior, also maps these distinctions of space/identity/self. And of course there is always the inner-self versus the outer, the public mask＃ (self as product of self and others again). Which leads us to the notion of ＆authentic＊ as ＆in＊ versus ＆inauthentic＊ as ＆out＊ 每 as coming (＆in＊) from ＆outside＊. The mark of a Romantic or Nature First philosophy, where the natural self is opposed to the publicly-formed, cultural self - alienated by modern life. So the private (autochthonous, autonomous) self as determined by natural essence joins ＆the private language fallacy＊ as another Romantic construal: for we are formed inter-subjectively, in inter-relation and inter-reaction with others and with our Culture (through ongoing processes such as, language learning and evolution, self-formation via mimesis, recognition, desire, role adoption, position in hierarchy, distinction-confirming or seeking, etc.). All of these feed into an already confusingly complex arena＃
Space as ＆where＊, as Who/se (Identity). ＆Belonging＊ to which nation, religion, ideology, class, gender, generation, family, or other cultural group? Inclusive or exclusive? (Imaginary or real?) Whole or part? (Meaning: which part is masquerading as the whole; or which part is claiming the whole?) Imperial (at its worst) or universal (at its best) or multicultural, versus national, community, or ＆tribal＊ identity)?
Conversely: Identity with ＆where＊, which space, become ＆place＊ (＆our place＊)＃ Space as in/out＃ enclosed or open; again, in reality or in the imagination (the spaces associated with these: region, city, family, religion, language group, nation, regional culture 每 so configuring ＆us＊/＊them＊ relations). Actual space (as opposed to imaginary space) is always porous＃
Space. Architecture is overwhelmingly public regarding the process of being built (large companies, shareholders, subject to oversight, law and permissions); public use, with private appropriation, yet many shared aspects make it public 每 a closed estate is still public to its inhabitants, for whom ＆private＊ is their own individual dwelling (or even their own room). Again public and private ownership, that is State and non-State ownership, do not map onto any intuited sense of private and public. Apart from physical space (the sense of a ＆room＊ as closed, closable, space: opposed to public open space, the corridor outside one＊s room) public/private are not really separable; internal thoughts are often shared, co-occur to those similar to us, or with similar experiences; and again, personal privacy, and being intimate or sociable, privately with others, are not the same thing; private information, from bank details to sex-life, is a matter of prudence and personal taste, yet is often shared. We all live in communities (real or imagined) peers and family and friends, bordered by the password of recognition; so public as community and the general public are two very different things. Perhaps giving three useful steps: ＆personal private＊ and ＆extended private＊, or self-alone (with a key supporting sense of personal imagination, personal thoughts or interior life) and self-with-others; this later median category also describable as a ＆restricted public＊, which in turn would be opposed to the ＆general public＊ (an imaginary entity if there ever was one; quantifiable as public opinion, doxa, as ＆realised＊ in the results of elections or in the flow of communications feed 每 but more usually imagined, sensed＃). With new technology, the information sharing of the technologies of mass communication (＆social networks＊) and their general availability and increasing ubiquity, we see the voluntary (and involuntary) breaching of this ＆wall＊, of public/private made physical in the walls of private residency (the exclusion of prying eyes from private life as ＆self and self with others＊ as ＆extended private＊ or ＆private life＊). This breach means that previously ＆private＊ images, phrases and behaviours, now become part of the (general) public projection of (personal) self; on the market for fame and cash (＆shock＊ as well as celebrity is a good form of advertising), part of collective consumption＃ collective communication - not least in the sphere of sex＃ With the consequent ＆bidding up＊ of what is transgressive in popular (and ＆art＊) culture. And a consequent shift in public mores＃
Architecture. Private made public in the panopticon. Making (it) public as good (a ＆necessary corrective＊, correctional).
Architecture. The public face concealing the private behind protective walls. Making the private possible (＆a room of one＊s own＊).
Conversely, making public as making good＃ Architectural privacy as a prison; as the space of hidden violence, oppression of women and children, of the weaker party, in physical and sexual violence. Of bullying away from the disapproving public eye＃
Space: Room; types of space as determining subjective feeling＃ ＆room＊ as ＆place＊; special to us because suggesting enclosedness, safety (not least for the vulnerable) and perhaps (personification) as an imaginary or intuited (ideal) dweller.
The positive meaning of private as space for emotions and intimacy: resistance to commodity driven role-play as to oppressive public norms; the utopian aspect of the private sphere; private intimacy as self-making and residual site of freedom in an ＆administered world＊ 每 the private in both Adorno and Foucault, strange bedfellows indeed).
Room as space (manifest privacy). The geography of community: family, self; city, home, room. From the shared space of community, of public space to the shared dwelling, to the personal room - and from the shared room of marriage or partnership to the private study. And the balance of in/out, of private (thought) in public, as part of internal, interior, intellectual work 每 for example, writing in a library or caf谷. Room; extension or reformation as patio, balcony and courtyard - again the mixing of inside and outside. So ＆both＃ and＃＊; both public and private? And the caf谷 on the square, such a feature of the culture of many cities? In this later case truly both public and private 每 the private in the public (being private in public). But in all cases retaining the sense of a ＆room＊; the extension of the ＆room＊, of a mental place, to a (generally) enclosed physical environment 每 protective, enclosing, permitting. (Just like garden space, or the patio, courtyard or balcony with water and plants: finding nature and culture together, tamed nature). A public square itself (as opposed to the rooms that look onto, or open onto it), lying at the other end of the spectrum, is also a kind of room＃ A dynamic and changing sphere of public identity and performance and society＊s myths and religions＃ One side of a public square is always the ＆right＊ side to face; then (and only then?) one is able to ＆understand＊ and ＆feel＊ according to the implied subject positions of local culture, as encoded in physical, architectural space 每 being conscious of these implied identities also another definition of ＆place＊＃ (See also the short essay: ＆On the square＊).
Or if we take the ＊private＊ as most private＃ as the ＆room＊ of identity, the room of the self. Site (imagined and imaginary) of imaginary identifications and the sense of self (our very own genius loci, our personification of self-awareness) as situated ＆behind the eyes＊, ＆between the ears＊, ＆em-bodied＊, the receiver of sense data, from both in and out; the ＆in＊ of memory and body, finally is felt as ＆out＊ (as outside of the conscious self as all input comes ＆in＊ by means of the body as ＆out＊, outside of, or before conscious processes). Otherwise, as with self/other, subject/object, we are made from, find ourselves, in the middle, in medias res, astraddle the opposition in question, the place of its difference even＃ (Perhaps the separation of a manifold into two always brings contradictions: so even subject/predicate, topic/comment or any distinction that prefigures conjunction, any division which grounds re-combination, as in logic and mathematics, seeds its own aporia or blind spot; even more so when we valourise one side and/or demonise the other - as is the case with religion and ＆good＊ and ＆evil＊: reality persists in being made up of more complex stuff). In one sense however, nothing is private in the sense of a sequestered inside; we are made inter-subjectively, as witness our ＆recognition organ＊ nurtured from birth on by our interaction with others, especially in language learning and mimetic role play, and in the endless process of comparison and status-seeking (pace the eternal presence of Hegel＊s dominance contest, the Lordship/Serfdom contest as always in process, a contest for priority also found in Hobbes, as constituting social competitiveness, position, preference, hierarchical privilege or distinction as sources of potential agon and, as noted, source of Bourdieu＊s habitus as evolving alongside and as support for distinction). Or is there even a public in the sense of outside, given that we categorise and learn from past (so internalized) experience＃ as ＆in＊ and ＆out＊ mutually condition each other＃ What is certain is that we all have an Eternal Present (as opposed to Augustine where only God has this experience: on the contrary, it is our experience of continual presentness that pre-figures our ability to posit ＆eternity＊ as a parallel ＆Absolute Outside＊). This experiential state in which we live until we die, together with our own past and futures (unique past, but shared cultural past, imaginary futures, projections from personal past and social expectations, repetitions), includes, therefore, a shared, but customized, outside of time; ＆eternity＊ with its deities, immortals, gurus, ＆father-figures＊ together with their heavens and hells 每 but also universals, abstractions, axioms, etc. Profoundly private; but shared by all; our human distinguishing feature, or ＆species-being＊ (to borrow a phrase from Feuerbach).
From self as room, to a room of one＊s own; where one can be that self＃ be one＊s self (space).
Privacy (＆a room of ones own＊): even in public, shared dormitories, people learn how to be private, needs must; single rooms, interestingly Europeans more than Americans do this (university accommodation). How many of us (Europeans) could now share a room with a stranger (in the case of travel, dorms in general are for the very young, or desperate/financially challenged)? How many people of any cultural background would once again willingly share once they had lost the habit＃ would still prefer to share, given the choice (and what does this say about public/private intuitions and individuation＃)?
Public/Private and Identity (0). The History of Subjectivities: ＆mentalities＊＃ cultures＃ including ＆sub-cultures＊ (a strange term given that all cultures are made up of ＆sub-cultures＊; perhaps the difference is not so much one of specificity or appropriation, but of reactivity, or definition against, often featuring shock for the sake of generational identity and co-opted for commercial gain). We might ask: is it perhaps the sum of roles that constitutes, first a sub-culture, and then a culture, and not vice versa? In this way cultural history may be re-written (from the ＆bottom up＊) as the history of self-fashioning subjectivities (much as with the later Foucault, in revolt against his earlier ＆Structuralist＊ or ＆epochal＊ model, which left no place for agency or pluralist divergence - even in private)! These subjectivities may then be ＆bundled＊ together into sub-cultures＃ Self-fashioning subjectivities were normally concerned with the history of special subjectivities, monks, philosophers, artists, intellectuals＃ rather than, as now, with everyone 每 with everyone as axiomatically possessing some degree of self-consciousness and private will. So the self was once the topic of study; but not yet every self! And a self with, so we were told, very definite beginnings＃ (usually ＆bourgeois/e＊ as a negative slant on the ＆modern＊). Yet when we look for, we find＃ and the further back in history we look, the more we find＃ modalities of self-making, along with reflections on self-consciousness. So these concerns and this manner of consciousness were not born as an epiphenomenal part of some qualitative break before which we were supposed to have no self＃ happy peasants at one with nature (or society). Indeed, the denial of ＆self＊ to others, is a bit like the denial of ＆soul＊ to those we wish to deny rights or (equal) personhood to, as in the history of slavery and of women and children 每 allowing language plays a similar role with respect to animals (if something has language, does that imply that it might have some sense of self＃)? Even tribal societies at the hunter-gatherer stage, have more than this putative monism or relative absence of the self＃ Again, we have the history of ritual as proof (classically as in Durkheim＊s concept ＆homo duplex＊ the ＆public/private distinction＊ in tribal societies) and in the consciousness of self and assorted social divisions (loyalties). The primal ＆unity＊ view, of course, was ideological (Left/Right) or metaphysical (the Fall, philosophy and the Nature/Culture opposition, Romantic and since＃). Is it the case that modern society is selfish and competitive in a way feudal society was not (and certainly it is much less violent)? Early (industrial) capitalism was certainly more competitive, more aggressive, than the societies it evolved into... Previously combining industrial developments with the bad habits of feudalism regarding conquest and expansion; this is a better ＆explanation＊ for Imperialism 每 in England there were many cases of class continuity between the landowners who then developed into industrial capitalists; we might also consider the continuance of the ＆feudal＊ custom of the surplus sons going out into the world to conquer a fiefdom for themselves 每 all a continuation of feudal customs by other means. Modern society is in general more tolerant and peaceful. So recent social research is opposed to the ＆neo-liberal stage＊ thesis＃ as showing a world always getting worse: yet using capitalism and the market (globalization, expansion of mass market) and returning to the 19th century (before state intervention, before Keynes) are not the same. This should be clear from the responses to 2008 and global politics since (with the exception of the exacerbation of the rich/poor disjunction and acceleration of global warming) recent global problems are mainly due to unsuccessful (pre-) or not yet advanced, capitalist states 每 and especially of ＆failed states＊ and unstable states using extreme nationalism as a cohesive/pacifying force (as used before in the nation building of the 19th century and again in the 1920s and 30s＃) in order to become ＆strong states＊ - but in fact a sign of internal weakness.
In this way the public /private division takes its place as part of the history of mentalities (passive, ＆structuralist＊, epochal), as of the history of subjectivities (active/agency/self-making, ＆post-structuralist＊, the ＆post-modern subject＊). The interaction of both offers ＆public＊ normative epochal ＆set＊ roles and beliefs at the same time as ＆private＊ actualities, attitudes and opinions expressed in private＃. Furthermore there is the interaction of these, in turn, with institutions (their genesis and evolution). As in the differentiation of state institutions and civil society, with the post-feudal evolution and spread of the institutions of civil society (one kind of public/private ownership if you like＃). But these are all still felt as public institutions when contrasted to the family (with some schizophrenia regarding the family business; perhaps resolvable as having Janus-like public and private faces or roles). Again this distinction is close to the felt sense of the public/private division. We might again break this down further and look at the family/individual distinction. But not usually; here we just talk of ＆privacy＊, or better, ＆personal privacy＊＃ Still, for many now, this is where the line is drawn, since the changes in the family in mass urban society and advanced capitalism. The family, like the self, changing with epochs and social formations but not originating (and so not disappearing) with them.
Are institutions the epitome of what is public? Or are they just public faces or facades ＆behind＊ which private transactions dominate? Or does the notion of institution include structures or cultures like the family - and even art forms and fashions. This is important as the family is seen as one source of many intuitions regarding the private sphere, whilst art is often read as private, (read individual, or subjective) as an interior form of consumption - so representing another set of intuitions of what is ＆private＊. Posing the problem: is it possible to find the moment in history when they, these institutions, were nearest to their ideal or＃ ＆best＊ (most effective)? Regarding the family, take your choice of the tribal pre-family structures (based on divisions of gender and generation) the traditional/extended (feudal or rural), modern (urban) or nuclear, and post-modern or serial/parallel families (with generalized divorce and remarriage, multiplying the number of ＆parents＊). Perhaps this question is fraught with political and metaphysical presuppositions (a utopian, ＆before＊ the family functioning as base from which to posit a ＆beyond＊ the family＃ with much the same as assumed for the ＆self＊＃).
The notion of the ＆Public Sphere＊ is one such putative institution (a little like an unmediated market place for the exchange of ideas). Sometimes conceived as at its best in the 17th and 18th centuries, pre ＆excessive＊ commercialisation of life and especially the rise of the intervening ＆media＊ (in practice, usually anti-mass culture, like most movements from this period till the rise of post WWII mass popular culture - which we now recognise as ＆classic＊, the beginning of a cultural plateau). The supposed heyday of the public sphere in the lost, but not so distant, past (the Fall again, Romantics only know one story) was anyway based upon the unrealistic expectations of unmediated communication; however since urbanization, we do not live in small villages - as with direct democracy as a source of idealistic criticism of the modern actualities of this same institution (which anyway only began to live up to the expectations it had always generated with respect to representation and transparency in the late 20th century). So direct communication (even ＆noise free＊ communication) turns out to be a naïve and backward-looking model, unsuited to modern mass democracy and voided by the realities of power gradients and embodied (actual) contexts, contesting value allocations and idealisations (all implying a priority, a hierarchy).
Perhaps the idea of an institution ＆at its best＊ is also true (or more often conceptualized as such) of culture, literature, music, painting 每 especially regarding the moments when they pushed too far on the door of difficulty, and then had to wind back＃ The relative formalism -not found in his earlier non-totalising ideas- of Henri Focillon＊s, The Life of Forms in Art, regarding the successive stages of epochal art movements as from ＆experimental＊ to ＆classic＊ to ＆baroque＊, is best applied to art and cultural movements in pre-mass society (as with his description of Feudal Gothic). So what we have is a model best suited to the evolution of pre-modern societies. Modernist and postmodern social forms and cultures, may perhaps find the ＆climb to the plateau＊, or ＆end of art history＊ thesis, as a more useful description ＃
But, interestingly, if we apply Focillon＊s three stages to the art usually gathered under the label, ＆Conceptual Art＊ (so including Post-conceptualism and its global influence 每 as the first fully globalized art trend) then perhaps＃ But this is to take one strand in late 20thc art and make it dominant＃as opposed to the Found Object (＆Duchamp＊) tradition, or the Abstract tradition or the Installation tradition＃ with their various re-combinations＃
With art, of course, the public/private distinction becomes a question of taste: personal taste and public standards of beauty.
A truth universally acknowledged＃ / Not to everyone＊s taste.
Public/Private and Identity (I): let us take as an (at first sight, unlikely) test case: the controversial notion of masochism. ＆Masochism＊ read as symptomatic; ＆Macho-ists＊ are masochists too: Ma(so/ch(o)ism! (Sad(o) Ma(so/ch(o)ism)! Mm＃ (Things done to others in public and those done in private＃ (consenting and other＃) things done to oneself＃ and withstanding pain for self 每 self-image and status＃ ＆no gain without pain＊). Masochism/macho-ism.
Traditionally the female was regarded as the masochistic gender, as lower term, accepting and appropriating the pleasures of the lower term; but (as in hysteria where conditions of extreme stress produce ＆hysterical symptoms＊ in men too, as for example in the case of war) males too, it would seem, can be ＆masochistic＊ (and not just in the sense of a game, of dressing-up or role play). In fact the most fundamental aspects of male identity, the most fundamental identity propositions many men associate with their ＆essential＊ self, are found to be masochistic with respect to the pressures and degree of pain that they accept as a ＆normal＊ part of their lives, work or leisure, sports or play, regarding consumption or resistance to climate, all with great disregard of health, not least in their ability to cope with various kinds of work environments and practices regarded by many as inimical (lack of sensitivity to pain or choice of painful competitiveness, as a chosen distinguishing feature of many masculinities).
(Needless to say, which means -in the face of uncritical fashion- it needs to be repeated: ＆sadism＊ is not the role play of the upper term, the ＆sadist＊ or active physical role (as opposed to the receiving, and, insofar as limits are set, controlling, role), is a game were these are roles come with well-considered limitations. Sadism proper is not playing or acting out: but the denying or destroying of another＊s subjectivity or the relishing of the infliction of unwanted pain 每 the practice and pleasure of power at its most naked＃ (not mocked from behind masks＃)).
The ＆masochistically-constructed self＊ is the one that loves its conditioning, glories in the ＆distorting＊ of the ＆normal＊ role (in the jargon of authenticity and alienation). So men, perhaps especially in-so-far as they must be active in hostile or difficult or challenging environments and contexts, which they are then proud of functioning in, of surviving in, are masochists too＃ Their identity is formed by these contexts (just like the rest of us).
With respect to ＆destructive＊ versus ＆creative＊ forms: perhaps the objective (descriptive) bottom line is that all forms of life are creative in one sense, that is productive of a kind of culture; they ＆produce＊ a type of self/life/culture: but that within this some actions are destructive of family, community or other forms of social life, or of the environment : on the other hand, other actions are nurturing and encourage continuity, enrichment and growth. We would say ＆sustainable＊: versus non-sustainable＃ Wasting, from the relation of a mode of production to nature (pollution, global warming) to a culture (pollution) to a life-style＃ From the smoker and drinker, often uneducated, but not always in denial; from the direct, ＆I cannot be arsed＊, to the rather more elegant, ＆I do it for my art＊; the ＆doomed romantic artist pose＊ beloved of teenagers and those who would claim the kudos of a creator (perhaps without being overly bothered to create). As well as those (again the addict of whatever habit) who simply will not change their ways - ＆so who wants to live forever?＊
The refusal of uses of the terms private and public with respect to our identity construction would appear to void many insights. With the possible exception of public role play as indeed, ＆public＊, in the sense of ＆public speaking＊, otherwise our pains of work and commuting, our ＆patience＊ with our urban environment, all public facts, contribute, even determine our identity, our life-style, our imaginary self-definitions (self-image) or identity propositions. And all feature the management of, the striking of a balance between, degrees of pleasure and pain＃ and an expected distribution over the public/private continuum however imagined. All part of a cultural constructionism that may include personal ideologies, narratives that excuse our self-destructive habits, but exceed the personal as they imply a community of ＆co-flagellants＊ 每 those who share the habit. Addiction in all its forms may seem an extreme example, but repetition of behaviour as habit can not only easily be read as addiction but also as a form of ritual. If we miss our everyday rituals might we not say they are addictive? (If we behave otherwise then usual are we not a different person 每 do others not perceive of us as different? Certainly communities of addiction -and this really means habit- will refuse to continue to recognize those who stray from the fold＃ who indicate that they no longer agree with this particular form of behaviour, and so put it into question＃ entailing an often aggressive response from those who feel threatened by this ＆disloyalty＊＃). Private habits may entail public commitments.
The above model may not be suited to those
(perhaps most of us) who continue to believe in the possibility of an authentic
life, an authentic or natural self; in effect a continuation of 19th
century authenticist or alienation theories (arising
as a critique of urbanism and industrialization and organisations,
the effects of the institutions of mass society) - themselves versions of
earlier philosophical positions on ＆Man＊ (from the Greek Pastoral to Rousseau
to Thoreau, from Daoism to Mencius to Zen) as essentially Natural (and so, in a
typical non-sequiteur, basically good) as opposed to
Cultural (supposed source of evil, the Fall). All transmitted into the ideology
Public/Private and Recognition (Identity II). Others, public or private; ＆in public＊ or ＆in private＊. All interactions involving patterns of recognition and ritual; or ritual recognition (and its repetitions; vestigial to cyclic; incidental to culture-defining, minor to catastrophic; sacrificial to gift exchange, destructive or voluntary offering of self or other). All with the possibility of private appropriation as a form of ＆understanding＊ opposed to public understanding (as in Taussig＊s notion of the ＆Public Secret＊). Recognition, our finely-tuned recognition intuition, begins from the most private, from our sense of self as bequeathed to us from our parents, our interaction with our mOthers and all the (significant) others that then follow (fathers, and then male and female others, forming foundations on which the chain of all future others, or self-other dyadds, are built). So constituting a kind of ＆recognition organ＊ (a set of largely unconscious self-other habits); a sense of perpetual interaction with others - even when they are not there. But certainly a reliance on the return of gaze, as a kind of public confirmation of self; a process ongoing, incompletable, and something which we rely on upon for our sense of self; which perpetually reconfirms and occasionally questions our self-image, our sense of belonging, of the community/s who ＆recognise＊ us as who we think we are＃ So evolved from private (family) life into our permanent and perhaps most important public awareness organ＃ Something we then carry back with us into our most private moments＃
Private moments: public personas. ＆Homo duplex＊ from Durkheim to Taussig＊s, ＆Public Secret＊ and also to Leo Strauss and double writing, public and private thought, manifested and ＆put-aside＊ thought. Important if living in a society which censors thought, from the historically famous examples of Spinoza, Leibnitz (and perhaps even Hegel, after the publication of his private letters). An important distinction for those living in countries where the Word is subject to political scrutiny, resulting in careful or coded speech and writing, and public and private philosophies＃ Double, in parallel, duplex.
So also including or implying the possibility of the accusation of improper, un-public behavior, or of improper behavior, but concealed, or private＃ an area where politics is a key player in this distinction. Public as politics＃ (the public sphere). Public performance as key to many political cultures, or more marked＃ private life as political rhetoric is still alive and well today. We note the history of accusations of incest and adultery (and wife beating), of public defamation as a form of political accusation in older cultures, religious ones 每 but not only in these. A person＊s public performance or role carries an implied contrast with their (putative or implied) private activities or roles＃ The continuities of the self and the aspersion of hypocrisy! Just as the differing lines drawn in defining what is public and private suggest differing degrees of limitation on what can be said in public, so with the performance of self; as certain cultures are more normative than others with respect to the limitation of roles 每 and the usual (if relative) loss of this in private＃ The ability to lose these limitations (on speech and role) is definitive of what is, what goes on - ＆in private＊. Definitive of the boundary that runs through homo duplex.
Manners; the public performance of self (learnt or rhetorical, ironic or strategic). A question of self-censorship or its lack; excessive ＆expressiveness＊, ＆airing in public＊ of presumably private matters, and of gross behaviour ＆in public＊; again presumably acceptable ＆in private＊ - in some kind of particular private context. And then we have ＆pre-programmed＊ public performances, gendered and generationally marked: ＆male display＊, ＆challenging behaviour＊, position seeking and attracting, courtship strategies, and so on＃ From ritualized to spontaneous 每 according to context. ＆Before＊ whom, with whom, interacting, communicating with whom＃ ?
Public life, life in public: not less individuality, but more politeness.
Some ideas towards a way of thinking the public/private ＆divide＊＃
Intuitively using our everyday terms for these experiences: ＆in private＊, ＊in public＊, feeling ＆at home＊, being, ＆at large＊＃ being ＆on show＊＃ where the term ＆being＊ may drift from a purely verbal use (as a copula), to the suggestion that it represents a self (so interpreted as a noun), but as part of our human self in general (＆species-being＊). (If you like, used anthropologically, after Feuerbach, and not metaphysically, as in Heidegger＊s appropriation＃). These linguistic terms representing our actually experienced use of space and situations felt to be ＆public＊ or ＆private＊.
Across a continuum let us imagine two indices (space as such having been dealt with above we move to those combining space and time in different ways): one index is based upon space and time in their co-implication; the place we are in and our sense of temporality (happy in the here and now/arrive: or passing through and future orientated, thinking forwards, thinking on return so possibly anxious). The other index is that uniting space to time, a kind of punctuation graded in intensity; a function of repetitions in space and time (folded into the experience of the Eternal Present, which is continuous with consciousness). This other index is made up of the rituals which define us there in space and time, punctuating our consciousness with rhythms intensifying the relation of self and others, self in community; along with the content of our imaginations, our imaginary (the sum of our imaginary identities). All mapping onto twin poles, stretched over a less distinct continuum, the range we divide into ＆private＊ and ＆public＊.
A continuum because the sense of public and private is stretched over a wide field, for example encompassing self alone (but also in a private place) with family, with friends, work associates, and in public, with others＃ (a range of relationships which veers from private to public, in quantity and in felt quality, but also in each case rewritten by differing performances, of differing degrees of normativity, regarding whether we are ＆in private＊ or ＆in public＊). The place as container or as uncontained, a little like ＆open＊ and ＆closed＊ (or better ＆enclosed＊) space, also operates across this person-based continuum; self alone is different in public, from sitting in an enclosed space (and a prison cell very different from a room of one＊s own, a home＃). So the type of space in question is important. Public versus private space.
The material element, the numbers or measure, the quantitative aspect is a continuum, yet our differing cultures draw the qualitative line in different places according to need; to desire and contingency; the sense of public and private exists only in our heads (we may have a very private conversation in a public place; according to who is present we may be ＆in public＊ in a small room 每 even being alone with the memory of another).
Space/time: Ritual＃ as well as the space we are in, public and private have their own differing kinds of repetitions, rhythms and rituals＃ All in a relation of repetition/variation (according to context).
But first we must look more closely at time as felt temporality, the basis of human experience and so the base fabric of ＆private＊ experience. We may be happy or unhappy with the incoming plenitude of our now moment. Happy with the content of our sense of now as arrived, as a wished-for duration achieved, we are in the middle of something pleasing. Opposed to this sense of comfort with the now is another kind of now moment, future orientated, as when we are passing through a period of time, an instrumental passage elsewhere in public, or a wish to return (home) ＃ - and of course, at home, bored, we may wish to leave＃ Boredom also generally indicates the future as a form of desire for something else; with thinking of being elsewhere, wanting (to be) somewhere else, as the origin of the sense of boredom＃ Where the time of the self, the current flavour of the now moment, is felt to be an unwelcome repetition or continuation, an identity with an unwanted present - because distracted by past memories of a more pleasant alternative, or a projection of these into the future (in the case of waiting for some kind of arrival)＃ Putting metaphysics aside, the past and future are all we need to understand the sense of boredom; the case where, pain aside, we are unhappy with our current temporal being. Such acute consciousness of self in time is unusual (unless you are a commuter, but then the time is question is often recycled as reading time). More usually our lives consist of repetitions which make us feel comfortable, which confirm, or perpetuate our identity (or we try to organize our lives to be like this), as such they are ritual repetitions, or better repetitions with the effects of ritual 每 if we are bored with these too then a ritual transformation is due＃ a ritual which begins a new cycle of repetition, repairing the entropy of the old cycle.
Time is return, repetition＃ I repeat there for I am; I repeat a set of ＆life-style＊ actions therefore I am that person＃ and because I am that person, the person I will myself to be (if done consciously) and am recognized as such by others (intentionally). Repetitions and returns in culture; intensified culture, so framed and repeated, means ＆rituality＊.
Ritual: types of space and types of time; united in ritual＃the conditions of repeated actions that make us who we are and where we do them＃ repetition (defines ritual) and rhythm (defines frequency texture of life) and intensity (celebrations, birthday, family to ＆public＊ party). Public and private rituals＃ or ones we carry out in private or in public, but which, either way, continue of form us, define us, as we pass between them＃ a blurring of boundaries, an intersection of sets.
So we finally arrive at ritual in its dominant function - as confirming identity＃ its renewal and maintenance; ritual as identity; in this sense defined with our imaginary identifications, but we may also define private (actual and immediate identities) as against public or other, general, assumed, identifications (real or imaginary). We may in fact posit rituals and their identity propositions and renewals as ＆actual＊, as opposed to ＆imaginary only＊ identifications＃ a brief consideration of which now follows＃
But ritual is finally about exchanges (at once real and imaginary, actual and symbolic), repeated, habitual exchanges, the everyday repetitions that make up everyday life and ＃identity＃ private and public＃
As the body must eat (and move) even to maintain stasis, just to exist; so our identity requires the exchange of ideas and a pattern of repetition to continue - to renew.
Private and public: defining the difference as defining the types of, the genres of, these relations. All may be defined, or at least are definable, redefined, by the volume and types of exchange relation(ship)s involved＃ Perhaps the private/public distinction with all its variety, contingency and fine tuning, itself may be ultimately best described by its expression in types of exchange.
Public/Private: Imaginary/Communities (Identity III). Identities of community, communities of identification, again from family and friends, to work and peers, to types of people we want to like, think we are like＃ to the basic identities of nation, language group, culture, religion, region, etc＃ from the very real communities we interact with on a daily basis, to more amorphous ones, we chose or aspire to, life style and public image, what we buy and wear (identity exchange/ritual expenditure) as the identity statements we make in our imaginations and in public＃ then there are the identifications we inherit, grow into, must legally entail (as part of birth or residence, or gender role＃) but may not always concur with (that of nation, position, language, culture, religion, or region＃). These may in various ways be foisted on us; as in the power of the (sometimes imagined or assumed) public gaze＃ a normative force＃we may agree with or disagree with, but cannot ignore＃ or (in some situations) may do so at some personal risk＃
Leading to further public division; ＆us＊ and ＆them＊＃ ＆like us＊ or ＆not like us＊; our communities of identification and the rest＃ the latter category ranging from an increasingly abstract sense of vague unity (nation, gender, generation, class, etc.) empty of (felt) content (united only by legalities or the ＆flag＊) 每 or disunited by a sense of scapegoating, or differential definition of self, as identity assumed ＆against the other＊＃ with all the attendant evils＃ (destructive ＆other-sacrificial＊ rituals - that is scapegoating, pogroms, ethnic-cleansing). A public division bridged by desire as sexual attraction operates across other differences (indeed often appears to be incited by them) resulting in private liaisons, consummations 每 perhaps later sanctified ＆in public＊ by marriage. So in this context private and public may also be read: private as affective, as site of positive affections; with public as condition or ground of attraction, of their origin. Much depends on other identifications＃ ＆post-traditional family＊ cultures are more public in their affections (but are these affections compensatory performances). Question: Strongly family-orientated cultures are supposed to be like this, uncaring of public matters unless they affect them directly? Whence a supposed concomitant absence of civic consciousness, or ＆civic virtue＊ as a feature of countries which rely on structural corruption for private wealth (the family) as well as those where a substantial portion of the population feel cultural abstentionism with regard to received or normative public matters (often functioning as an excuse for greed).
Public/Private can be read as a question of degrees of public performance (beginning with the performance of the self to the self, of I and me, of the consciousness of the repetitions of being in the eternal present); as the performance of identity propositions (roles, family, status, gender, loyalties, etc.) as necessary. For this near continual performance is constitutive of the public＃as audience (from imaginary to real); with the public role played as a defining feature of the ＆Public＊ realm (being ＆in public＊). Therefore the role of public rhetoric versus personal power, power as employed in private, or the sense of, or performance of, the ＆real self＊ in private (the private as the authentic). As a result the ＆public realm＊ is initially defined against the private; what we do and ＆are＊ - ＆in private＊. Yet in private we too play roles＃ and differential, contextual definition means we are different people with different people＃ Like words, phrases and sentences, we take our meaning, or our identity, from our social context (those we interact with through our senses, as well as those significant others that are lodged in our memory). So it is always better to assume that in other situations we will be playing other roles, ＆behind the scenes＊, ＆before oneself＊, even＃ in the mirror. Not least when roles are gender roles, and where private power may manifest as domination and domestic violence. So it is that we play ＆other＊ roles ＆in private＊ (whether alone, coupled ＆in private we two play roles＊, or as ＆family＊). Always it is wise to regard ALL as a species of role-play (as performances of self) as we do with language, so avoiding the notion of the private as that which is more ＆authentic＊. Although in some cultures this notion of ＆private performance as truth＊ may apply when regarding the restriction or normativity of public roles: however we should note that traditional societies require certain roles in private too 每 as does socialisation into any social form. All is an awareness of others, so of a performing before others, a performance of self (often viewed as other) as related to others, so context specific, people and place both vary. Before how many people? The qualitative side is that at a certain (quantitative) point we infer change; we call that moment the public/private split. Mapped onto this is also the question of types of space (the place, or stage for the performance), of outside versus inside. But in general the qualitative break in the numbers of witnesses, the audience, the participants, is the key question (what we do, what we say before or to whom). We may be ＆in private＊ in an open space with only one person or with family members. Public and private roles; perhaps we only become aware of the ubiquity of role play, of identity as contextual, when we realize it as such - thorough an unwanted (felt as, out-grown) normativity or conversely through deliberate, even ironic, play＃
Who is the Public? The Subject (Big Subject, so assumed, imagined, fictional＃ as in Big Brother, or Big ＆Other＊, the collective other) the gaze of the (which) other(s)? In actuality, fractured＃ by space, time, number and type; so plural (as in the later Wittgenstein and pragmatic linguistics). In practice, each gathering and each space configuring new assumptions, new interpersonal relations, new power gradients＃ new mixes, and games＃ creative and competitive, as in the evolution of culture, as in the evolution of natural language.
So if viewed as a problem by left and right, conservative and liberal, libertarian and communitarian, alike, the evolution of public and private, as eternal a dialectic as subject and object, as self and other, as we have seen from its ubiquity and potentialities, appears to be one of continually evolving possibilities, not least as ＆it＊ interacts with all the other possibilities (education, technology, mobility) modern societies offer. Appropriating, being influenced by, being formed by, and occasionally resisting＃
(Regarding the above: if grounded in the Eternal Present then private/public may be read as same/other, self/others, self/Other, or as subject/object, subjective/objective; if grounded in a place then as types of space (public and private, open and room type spaces; use and occupation, including type of ownership) also as an aspect of the all-purpose, eternally-recurring, inside/outside opposition. If combined with family or other intimates, then we have private life versus public life＃ as communication and sexual activity, with respect to family, friends and small communities. Between those we know and the rest＃ concrete and particular versus abstract (social) relations)＃).
By way of a conclusion. Insights from tribal societies, as for example Durkheim＊s insights in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life concerning the nature of the self as ＆homo duplex＊, as always divided into private self and public self, indicates that any theories based upon the narrow periodization of the public/private binary are wrong; the ＆divide＊, read ＆fall＊ from mythic ＆unity＊, was supposed to begin with the contradictions of the modern epoch and would be expected to die away with their overcoming. We only need to stop for a moment to think what this implies about feudalism＃ or perhaps we should say, nineteenth century ＆Medievalism＊. Romantic organic unity offers the first of many such reactions to the re-territorialisation of human life by capitalism, industrialization, urbanization and the growth of a mass market, foundation for a mass society and mass media. On the long view all humans seem always to have had some form of the ＆private/public＊ divide, from tribal societies on＃ the balance and type changing with epoch and social formation, to be sure. Private here, as self and collective other, is understood as personal, based upon the personal point of view, our bodily lodgment in the eternal present as experiential starting point and final frame of reference; indicating individual thoughts and feelings (as opposed, or as contrasted, to public ones, of required agreement). This division continues in a variety of forms, with the modern epoch making much of the private/privatized dwelling, our built lodgment, versus the outside as public＃ really a space issue, with space differentiated according to, or demanding different professions or behaviours; including ones dissenting from those normative in public (so an extension of the individual mental ＆space＊ into a home space). Yet, home life can be seen as both private and public with respect to politics, as part of ancient (Roman) through feudal (late-Medieval) public life: as shown in the rhetoric of the right to rule (an extension of ruling the home, the domestic 每political- economy as mirror of the macro political economy, also of gender, generational, employing/owning relations in the home - and of course sexual behavior and its aberrations, always a part of public political rhetoric). As we have seen, the modern epoch sometimes exaggerates this opposition by pretending its non-existence prior and post＃ (the latter thesis in subjunctive mode). The best method as ever is to adopt the ＆All and Always＊ position, one manifold with differences of type due to epoch and social formation. The range of divisions describable as public/private have cogency over all types of society at all times and, with respect to observable behavior (so stepping beyond the subjective eternal present), all behaviours at all times may be codified as kinds of ritual. Public ritual as, not opposed to private thoughts or home life/practices, but as part of a continuum of different types of ritual as apposite to different situations (in/out; rituals of self, couple, family, peers, crowd, strangers, etc.). Private opinions of course are also a part of identity and role＃ and may be ascertained (as in anthropology or sociology) in personal conversation. Individual behaviour (in context) is of course the basic unit of observation. Whether ＆in public＊ before others, ＆at home＊ or outside, ＆in public＊, or in performance at work or public display, all involve process and practices, ritual repetitions, and required roles＃ many recognition and comfort based＃ some normative＃ mandatory. So, again, the public/private distinction here may also be seen as mapping onto the individual/collective binary as for example in terms of habits (habitus) expressed in quiet or modest cultures as contrasted to expressive, noisy, or displaying cultures, and representing different degrees of public/private, degrees of acceptability or right or expectation to express, a variety of thoughts and feelings＃ and in what contexts. If the rights versus duties opposition is thrown into the equation as yet another possible shading-in of public and private, then we have the difference of personally wanted roles versus those associated with collective or public, or family life (＆family＊ here read as collective or ＆public＊, albeit in a more restricted arena)＃ If the family is counter-posed to public life, then we have the classic nepotism versus state or society conflict of loyalties＃ as well as home as shelter from public roles and pressures＃ In effect, the range of the terms covering the private aspect of the private/public divide, range from the individual (the Eternal Present, Durkheim＊s homo duplex) to the individual in space (the individual alone in a ＆private＊ space) and evolving through the sense of inside/outside into degrees of participation in the public sphere, including quantitative and qualitative distinctions in terms of number of audience, the participants of any given ＆peopled space＊; all in combination offering a gradient and a variety of types.
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2016