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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S047-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

The distinction between private and public is both central to much legal and political thought and subject to serious challenge on philosophical, practical and political grounds by critics of the status quo. Privacy – the state of being withdrawn from the world, free from public attention, interference or intrusion – is a cherished social value that is being offered ever more protection. Increasingly, laws require people to respect the privacy of others: privacy is recognized as a fundamental right in international documents and national constitutions, and recent customs and social norms forbid intrusions that were once accepted. The concept of privacy is also widely abused: it has been used to justify private racial discrimination and state neglect of domestic violence, as well as social abdication of general economic welfare through laissez-faire policies and the so-called privatization of social services. Critique of the public–private distinction is an important part of many critical theories, especially feminism and critical legal theory. These critics object that the public–private distinction is exaggerated, manipulable or incoherent.

Citing this article:
Olsen, Frances. Privacy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S047-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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