Garret Keizer on Privacy and Class. September 14, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Capitalism, Class, Economy, The Left.
I’m never entirely surprised by the rage that enters into discussions of public versus private sectors, particularly from those in the latter. Having worked in that area for a large portion of my own working life the lack of autonomy in many jobs is something that – again having direct experience of same – is enraging. That that energy – understandable as it is – tends to be channelled towards attempting to pull others down (as exemplified by a comment the day before yesterday) rather that pushing everyone’s situation upwards is a depressing indictment of how orhodoxies aren’t simply economic but are broader and more constraining…
And in a context where the vehicles for shifting employments from one situation to another – the unions, are both enfeebled (or non existent) in the private sector, or can appear unconcerned with the situation of private sector workers, and add to that a suspicion of unions and the means for positive change are limited. Worse again one could argue that the best opportunity that unions had to ameliorate this in the private sector, the period of social partnership was simply blown by them. And of course it’s not just the workplace because this goes far beyond that.
Which brings me to an interesting podcast from Slate with an interview by the excellent (and Scottish) June Thomas with Garret Keizer who was discussing the issue of privacy in reference to his book on the same topic. What was telling was how explicitly Kezier positioned this in the context of class.
I just made a short check list of a whole bunch of things that people of certain classes can afford and people of other classes can’t. Not only does one’s privacy depend in some ways on ones class but one’s enjoyment of the private life that privacy protects can also depend on class. So you can talk about having the right to privacy that is protected by the Fourth Amendment that guarantees some protection against warrantless searches of your house but what if you don’t have a house, what if you’re sleeping under a bridge or what if you do have a house but you have to work three jobs just to pay for the mortgage. So you have an abstract theoretical right to privacy but your actual experience of the things that cause us to regard privacy as a value is extremely limited.
Again I think it is possible (and necessary) to draw that much wider and to reconfigure privacy as part of that broader area of autonomy’. Simply put in our societies privacy and autonomy are curtailed by economic position.
If one sees this starkly in the workplace in terms of power dynamics, it is also evident in every part of life, from the domestic space – where one lives, the nature of the accommodation (even to the issue of how much space there is from the neighbours or can one hear them through the walls>), interactions in the public sphere – and in particular with ‘services’, both public and private and so on and so forth.