Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Privacy, Individualism and Capitalism

SHOOT: Some fascinating ideas here.

My belief is that what have come to associate with the concept of privacy developed alongside
the emergence of the concept of the self: the cult of individuality that has become ever more deeply ingrained within our culture
. This can be seen in changes to architecture, in the development of a literature focused on the self and individual experience and in the shape of capitalism and consumption that has fuelled the development of our society.

Charting the development of a concept of privacy alongside the emergence of the individual as the fundamental building block of Western democracy suggests to me that it is part of an economy of scarcity – one of the key tenets of the logic of capitalism. A thing has high value in a society because it is rare. In a world where the proliferation of surveillance devices, techniques and technologies has become rampant, a paranoia is developing concerning the erosion of personal privacy. Against this background we need to rethink some of our closely held conventions on the sanctity of privacy – to stop thinking of it as some kind of precious commodity and to experience it as a condition, irrespective of its materiality.

A new language of personal engagement is required to wean the West from its dependence on the cult of the individual. Fuelled by a kind of perverse Darwinian evolutionism, there is a particularly Protestant or even Calvinist ring to many of the arguments which emphasise the sanctity of the individual. It is no doubt that such thinking is energetic, but is it really in keeping with the kind of world we want to live in?

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