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Ittr Weintraub (y Krishan Kumar

editors tr



Perspectives on a Grand Dichotomy

This book brings together

both theoretical and empiriin social life and social thought, exploring different dimensions of, and approaches to, this grand dichotorny. The aim of the coilection is to bring out the significance of this overarching rheme for a wide range of issues and debates and, at the same time, to confront directly the complexity and ambiguiry of the public/private distinction itself, both theoretically and sociohistorically. Drawing the lines benveen public and private-both practic"lly and theoretically-has been a central preoccupation of Western thought since classical
a set

of original


cal, that focus on the public/private drstinction

antiquiV; and "public" and "private" have long served as key organizing categories in social and political analysis, in legal practice and jurisprudence, and in moral and political debates. Ve encounter this distinction in contexts that run from the most abstract theorizing to the most practical and immediate

he University

of Chicago Pres

( tr17)

of everyd"y life. In recent decades, different versions of the public/ private distinction have become even rnore salient in a striking range of disciplines and a.reas of inquiry, from "p*blic choice" economics to socid history and ferninist scholarship. \fhile the reladonship bemeen the "public sector" and "privatization" has become a prominent issue of economic policy and political debate, there has also been an intensified interest in the history and transformations of "private life"-rneaning, in this case, not corporations or entrepreneurship but changing modes of intimacy, sexualiry, family, and friendship.An expanding "public choice" literature, rooted in neoclassical econornics, coexists with a wave of concern for the "public sphere" of discussion and political action delineated by Ji.irgen Habermas or Hannah fuendt and for the "public life" of sociabiliry charted by Philippe Ariis, Jane Jacobs, or Richard Sennett. \rtrhile some wonder whether the social impact of new communications technologies is shifting (and perhaps eroding) the boundaries befween "publicity" and "privacy" in fundamental ways, "privacy" has become a central concept in the controversy over abordon rights. In these and many




other areas, the public/private distinction is more than ever a lively, even

burning, subject.
However, much of this discussion is weakened by rwo iuterconnected limitations: The enormous bodies of discourse that use "public" and "private" as organning categories are not always informed by careful consideration of " the meanings and implications of the concepts themselves. And, even when the discussions are more conceptually self-reflective, those who draw on one or another version of the public/private distinction often do so without systematic attention to, or even clear awareness of, the wider range of alternative frameworks within which it is employed. Aside from fragmenting the different fields of discussion, the result is that people operating within these different perspectives are often not fully aware of the undercurrents of assumption and implication bound up in their own conceptual vocabularies. People not only talk past each other, or operate in mutual isolation, but confuse themselves as well. Therefore, the prevailing situation is too often one of conceptual confusion rarher than fruitful cross-fertilization and reasoned contestation. By contrasr, the present collection builds on the recognition that the public/ private distinction is not unitary, but protean. It comprises, not a single paired opposirion, but a complex family of them, neither mutually reducible nor

wholly unrelated. 'Weintraub, which This is especially the thrust of the first essay by Jeff offers a critical overview of the major uses of the notions of "public" and "privare," seekirg to elucidate their theoretical and sociohistorical roots and to bring some intelligible order to the confusing multipliciry of ways that they are employed. \Teintraub delineates, in particular, four broad fields of discourse in which different notions of "public" and "private" currently play important roles: ( 1) the liberal-economistic rnodel, dominant in most "public policy" analysis and in a great deal of everyd"y legal and political debate, which sees the public/private distinction primarily in terms of the distinction berween state administration and the market economy; (2) the civic perspecrive, which sees the "public" realrn (ot "public sphere") in terms of political communiry and citizenship, analytically distinct from both the market and the adminisrrarive state; (3) the approach, exemplified in different ways by the work of Aribs and Jane Jacobs (and other figures in social history and anthropology), which sees the "public" realm as a sphere of fluid and polymorphous sociabiliry, distinct from both the structures of formal organization and the "private" domains of intimacy and domesticiry; and (4) those tendencies in feminist scholarship (*d related areas) that conceive of the distinction berween "privare" and "public" in terms of the distinction berween the family

becoming the paradigmatic "public" realm. A central theme of Veintraub's discussion is the inadequacy of any single or dichotomous model of the public/ private distinction to capture the institutional and cultural complexiqy of modern societies" By mapping out and explicating the different forms, varianrs, and dimensions of the public/private distinction, his essay also arremprs ro provide an orienting conceptual frarnework for the issues addressed in the remainder of the voluffre. The next three essays, while pursuing their own specific agendas, also address the historical emergence of k.y dimensions of the public/private distinction as it has come to be understood and institgtionalized in modern societies. One distinctive aspect of tWestern moderniry, and especially of liberal thought and practice, has been its emphasis on demarcating the "public" domain of state power from the "private" domain of the market and civil sociery. But modern sociery has also been marked by an increasingly sharp polarization between a "private" domain of "personal life," understood as the special preserve of intimacf , affection, trust, and elective affiniry, and the larger world of impersonal and instrumental relations epitomized by the market and the modern state. Allan Silver's essay addresses this second division. As he points out, in modern sensibiliqy the domain of personal relations-of friendship, the family, romantic love, and so on-is often understood as a precarious historical survival in tension with, and indeed threatened by, the abstract and impersonal structures of modern sociery. However, Silver argues, this realm of anti-instrumental private life is in fact a distinctive creation of moderniry; and its existence requires the very impersonaliry of the new "public" world of bureaucratic administration, contractualism, and monetized exchange against which it is culturally distinguished. Sympathetically reconstructing the analysis developed by the Scottish Enlightenment of the eighteenth cenrury, which forms the basis for his own argument, Silver contends that it conrinues ro offer a powerful theoretical contribution to addressing conremporary conce



larger economic and political

order-with the market economy often

Craig Calhoun's essay addresses a diffcrent dimension of the ways that the public/private distinction has figured in the historical sociolo gy of moderniry. Calhoun analyzes the changing historical meanings of "public," "narion," and "people" as different modes of conceiving of an inclusive communiry, and links these notions to the emergence of the modern state and of new forms of large-scale social integration. The discourse of nationalism-in complex interplay with currents of liberalism, republicanism, and religion-has furnished one answer to the problem of forming and recogni zLngmodern political communities, and for this reason has played a significant role in the hisrory of democracy. Yet it also has dangerous implications because of its tendency




ro conceive of the public realrn in a monolithic and undifferentiated way. Drawing on a critical appropriation of Habermas's treatment of the "public
sphere," Calhoun argues that one of the crucial questions of the modern era is to understand the conditions under which meaningful and efficacious public discourse, involving neither fragmenration nor repression of difference, can be achieved. Daniela Gobetri's essay reconsrrucrs and examines some key aspects of the historical elaboration of the liberal distinction berween private and public. Her starting point is the pervasiy-e influence of the classical model, later embedded in Ro-"r law, for whi.fljSirtinction berween private and public corresponded to a division berw..r the domains of the household and the body politic. This was gradually displaced by model for which the "private" corresponded


politics" that attempt, in efFect, to eclipse altogether the distinction berween public and private by collapsing the personal into the political. And Alan Volfc argues that, while some forms oi th. public/private distinction are necessary for both understanding and improving mod.rn societies, a unitary and dichotomous public/private framework is inadequare to address key issues in both social theory and political practice. All three of these conrributors argue, in effect, that the proper response is not simplification but complex-


" to the individual, or ro civil society centered on market relations. Feminist thinkers have argued that, where women are concerned, liberal

thought and practice superimposed this newer model on the older one, maintaining the famllythousehold as a "natural" realm of subordination while excluding women from full participation in both civil sociery and the body politic. Gobetti argues that such readings, while illuminating, have been incornplete and thus porenti"lly misleadirg. Rather, early modern natural law theoris$-fssm Pufendorf to Locke and Hutcheson-were led to revise the dominanr models of both the household and the political domain in profound ways, and in the process to plant the seeds for a more universalist egalitarianism than they themselves were willing to accept. fu the same time, they helped lay the groundwork for continuing problems in our understandings of political judgment.


these essays

link their historical

analysis to current theoretical and prac-

tical concerns. Such concerns are the central focus

of the next set of essays. shown to be ambiguous and Once the pubtic/private distinction has been sociohistorically variable rather than "natural" or straightforward, one response may be that we should simply dispense with it as misleading or ideologically oppressive. In different ways, the essays by Jean Cohen, Jean Elshtain, and Alan Wolfe all argue against such a move. Jean Cohen, taking as her srarting point the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to base a woman's right to choose abortion on a constitutionally protected right to privacy, defends the discourse of privacy and privacy rights against criticisms by both feminist legal scholars and "comm,unitarians." Undert"kitg to "redescribe the good that

privacy protecrs"

in nonatomistic and nonpatriarchal terms, Cohen argues

that a legally safeguarded right to privacy-the protection of the "territories of the self:"-is essential to any serious modern conception of freedom. Jean Elshtain, in a parallel argument, warns against the dangers of current forms of

frarnework in history and the social sciences. Vhen used as a binary

segtegated lifeworlds based on the nineteenth-cenrury doctrine of "ip"r"t. spheres" for men and women. The larger implications of this analysis poirrr ro the problematic character_of the publiclpriu.t. dichotomy itself

dichotomized benveen public and private spheres, with women largely confined to the latter. Her findings undermine both the assumption of a rigid separation ber'ween these rwo domains and the related pi.iure of gender-

urbanism" and the "planned communities" of the 1980s and 1990s have overcome the tendencies toward alienation, isolation, and the degradation "p,rbof lic space" attributed to the practices of modernist archite.r,.rr.. Rather than a revitalization of public space, cornmunity, and urban sociabiliry, the results are more often to foster consumerism, the hardening of social boundaries, and a combination of pseudocommuniry and privatizarion. Furthermore, critical discussions of these issues tend to be handicapped by inadequare and misleading understandings both of the social dynami., of public space and of the processes by which the public/private distinction is given concrere form in the built environmenr. Karen Hansen, in a historical study ofworking-class lifc in antebellum New England based on the analysis of personal narraii'rr.r, questions the prevailing historical understanding of social life in nineteenth-cenrury America as sharply

that is dangerously vulnerable to the incursions of politics, cornmerce, and individualism. In a comPlementary vein, David Brain, charting the transformations in the theory and practice of architecture and urban design in the United States frorn the hey d^y of "modernism" to the "postrnodernist', reaction against the modernist project, quesrions the extenr ro which the ',new

porary celebrations of the home and family are often misg"ia.a appeals ro a sphere that has already been severely weakened over th. p"-rr cenru{y, and one

The essays of Cohen and Wolfe both point ro a critical ambiguiry of the "private" as comprising either the individual or the family. Firishan Kumar turns his attention to this second face of the "privare sphere": rhe one that identifies it with the social space and the intimate life of the home . Drawing on the thinking of Philippe Arils and Hannah Arendt, he argues that conrem-

,, .rrlrr"l^ic *od.t


essays, they should also be consciously attentive to the complex, contested, and multivalent character of the concepts themselves. An early version of \X/eintraub's essay was rnade available to the other contributors, and they were invited to draw from, modifir, or react against its conceptual framework if that seemed useful. A number of the contributors have done so, to a greater or lesser extent, and some of them have drawn on essays by other contributors as well. Partly for these reasons, it seems to us that the volurne as a whole hangs together fairly coherently, and that the arguments of these essays interconneff in a nurnber of significant and illuminating ways, for all their differerlces in outlook and subject matter. Taken together, they add up to a sustained reflection on one of the central organizing principles of social thought and social life, particularly (but not exclusively) in \Western societies. Several of the contributors deserve thanks for more than their essayswhich would have been quite enough. Allan Silver provided extremely valuable advice, both intellectual and practical, from an early stage of this project. W'e should also like to thank Alan tWolfe, as the editor of the series in which this book appears, for his assistance and encouragement. \7e are indebted to the encouragement, enthusiasm, and good judgment of Doug Mitchell, our editor

obscures the of social structure, Hansen argues, the public/private dichotomy in everyday life as a depth, breadth, and import"r.. of informal sociabiliry reducible to those of distinctive field of pracligss-with a cultural logic not help to sustain comthe market, the state, or the domesric sphere-that can munities and weave these different realms together. The last rwo essays, by Marc Garcelon and Oleg Kharkhordin, provide by examining the a different kind of historical and comparative perspective of public and private as they developed in Sovietdistinctive configurarions them note, the societies, p"rti.,rlarly th. So,riet Union itself. As both of

What we did ask was that, whatever the substantive focus of their

rype "public" and "private" as Russian language has no satisfactory equivalents for languages, nor had Russian thought in wesrern European these terms "pp."r on this pair of concepts' generated a ,odirion of theoretical reflection centering


"translation problems" pose some ways, these linguistic and conceptual since interpretive difficulties, b,.rt th.y also open up some useful possibilities' *"ri of the concepts that are fused together in the public/private dichotomy is captured by distinct terms in Russian. Garcelon's essay, which grounded

in a systematic conrrast of the historical experiences of Western and Sovietthat such notions as "public," "private," "public rype societies, makes it clear ,'pl.r.," and "civil sociery"-y7[ich are complex enough in a \Testern conrext-cannor simply be applied to Communist and post-Communist societies hyperwithout careful refine*."i and specification. Communism sPawned a and officialdom, but trophied public realm in the sense of state sovereignry lrrophied public realm in the sense of republican citizenship and political "r, a general sociery. And, on the other hand, Soviet-rype societies experienced "privatization," but this involved neither the "civil particutoward

at the Universiry of Chicago

Press, a genuine intellectual

with whom

it is

larism" of the market nor an individualized private realm based on recognized web of privacy and elective affinities. Instiad., it took the form of a Pervasive relationships, and a disp",rorr-client ties and other instrumental-personal examtorted form of familial privatism in the domestic sphere. Kharkhordin of the Bolshevik project ines, in a more focused w2/, the paradoxical outcome
of creating a new, morally redeemed individual, through a radical transforma"personal life" based tion of everyd"y life that simukaneously dernanded a new as illeon internalized commitment and rejected privacy and private interests priYacy, gitimate. The ultimate result was neither saintly zeal' nor legitimate and cynical dissimulation, with a hidden but a sociery marked by pervasive underside of carefully guarded secrecy' A persistent challenge in assembling edited collections is to combine coherbreadth and variery with a reasonable degree of thematic and conceptud a single perspecence. Ve did not select contributors with an eye to pushing rive, nor ,Cid we rry ro impose a particular framework on their discussions'

always a pleasure to work. Kathryn Kraynik, our manuscript editor, shepherded the book through its final stages with a mixture of skilled professionalism and unfailing good humor that was sometimes tested and much appreciated. And we are also grateful to Doug and to some of the contributors for their patience in the face of what proved to be this book's unexpectedly long period of gestation. \fle hope they feel it was worth the wait.


About the





Weintraub The Theory and Politics of the

Public/ Private Distinction

2 Allan

Siluer "Two Different

in Civil

Sorts of Commspss"43

Friendship and Strangership

Society Sphere

3 Craig Calhoun Nationalism and the Public


4 Daniela Gobeni Humankind as a System: Private Public Agency at the Origins

of Modern
5 Jean

Privacy: Autonomy, ldentity,


L. Cohen Rethinking

and the Abortion

6 Jean Bethke

Controversy Politics

133 166

Elshtain The Displacement of

7 Alan


Public and Private in The ory and Practice: Some lmplications of an Uncertain

8 Krishan


Kumar Home: The


Promise and Predicament 204

of Private Life at the End of the



9 Dauid Brain

From Public Housing to Private Communities: The Discipline of Design and the Materialization of the Public/Private Distinction in the Built Environment


l0 Karen V. Hansen

Rediscovering the Social: Visiting Practices in Antebellum New England and the Limits of the Public/Private Dichotomy

| Marc


The Shadow of the Leviathan: Public and

Private in Comrnunist and Post-

Communist Society
12 OltS Reveal and Dissimulate:


A Genealogy of
333 365

Private Life in Soviet Russia lndex

err WEtNTRAUe (editor) is a social and political theorist who has taught at Harvard., the University of California at San Diego, and \Tilliams College; during l99l 92he was aJean Monnet Fellow at the European Universiqy Institute in Florence. Publications include the forthcomin g Freedom and CommunirV: The Republican Virtue Tradition and the Sociologr of Liberry,which arrempt, botli a reinterpretation of the social-philosophical roots of modern social theory and a reassessment of the nature and conditions of democratic citizenship. He is at work on an exploration of the interplay berween citizenship, nationalism, and revolution in the modern era, from 1776 and 1789 through l9B9 (and beyond).

KntsHAN Kumnn (editor) is professor of sociology at the Universiry of Virginia and was previously professor of social and political thought at the Universiry of Kent at Canterbury. He has also been a producer of talks and documentaries for the BBC; a visiting scholar in the Sociology Departmenr ar Harvard Universiry; a visiting professor of sociology at the Universiry of Colorado ar Boulder; and, more recendy, a visiting professor at the Central European Universiry in Prague. His books include Prophecy and Progrus: The Sociologt of Indusnial and Port-Indus*ial Society (1975); Utopia andAnti-Unpia in Modern Times (1987); The Rise ofModern Society (1988); Utopianism (1991); and From Post-Indusnial to Post-Modrlrn Socien


of South Florida. He has published articles dealing with .ultur., of production and the production of culture, and is finishing a book, The Disciptine of Design, of cultural authoriqy, are inscribed in material artifacts and built into the sparial
organization of social life. on the formation of the architectural profession in the Unired States. His currenr research interests focus on the ways that patterns of social relations, especially forms

BRAIN is a sociologist who currenrly teaches ar New College of the Universiry

Cnnlc CALHoUN is professor of sociology and hisrory at the Universiry of North

Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is also direoor of the Universiry Celter for International Studies and of the Program in Social Theory and Cross-Cultural Studies. Calhoun has edited Habermas and the Public Sphere (Ig9Z) and Social Theory and the Politics of ldentity (1994); his other books include The Question of Class Snuggle: Popular Protest in Industrializing England (I9BZ), Neirher Gods Nor






Emperors: Students and the Struggle for Democracy in China (1994), and Critical

Social Theory (1995).


and police institutions; sociological theory; and, more recently, the historical sociol, ogy of friendship and rrusr.

rnr.r L. CoHEtrt is associate professor of polidcal science at Columbia University and has published extensively in the fields of conternporary political and social theory. She is the author of Class and Ciuil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory (1982) and coauthor of Ciuil Socie4t and Political Theory (with Andrew Arato, 1992), and is now working on a book on gender and the law, focusing on privacy and privacy rights.


has interests in the sociology of moral issues, which he explores in both the scholarly and quasi-scholarly press. His currenr position is Universiry Professor and professor of sociology at Boston Universiry, and his mosr recenr books are Whose Keeper? Social Science and Moral Obligatiln (1989), America at

Century's End (an edited volum e, 1991), and The Human Dffirenc: Animals, Computers, and the Necessitl, of Social Science (1993).


BTTHKE ElssrAtN is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the Universiry of Chicago. Her books include Public Man, PriaAte Woman: Women

in Social and Political Thoughr (198 l); Meditations on Modern

Political Thought (1986); Women and War (1987); Power Trips and Orher JourneJls (1990); and Democracy on Trial (1995). She is editor of The Fantily in Political Thought (L952); co-editor of Women, Militarism, and War (1990); co-author of ButWas ItJust?; Reflections on tlte Morality of the Persian GulfWar (199D; and the
author of some rrnro hundred articles and essays in scholarlyjournals and journals of civic opinion.


is currently a lecturer in sociology at the Universiqy of California at Berkeley and was previously a fellow at the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies in Washington, DC. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the

in 1995 and is revising for publication his dissertation, "Democrats and Apparatchiks: The Democratic Russia Movement and the Specialist Rebellion in Moscow, 1989-199I."
University of California at Berkeley
DnrvtELA GoBETrt is a political theorist interested in problems of political participation and changes in the use of the language of rights. Publications include Priuate and Public: Indiuiduals, Households, and Body Politic in Locke and Hutcheson (Routledg., 1992) and articles in Italian and English on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Natural Law theorists.

Knnrru V. HnNSEN is associate professor of sociology at Brandeis Universiqy. She


the auth or of A Vrry Social Time: Crafting Community in Antebellum New England (1994) and co-editor of Wonten, Class, and the Feminist Imagination (1990). She is co-editing (with Anita Garey) a forthcoming volume on Families, Kinship, and Domestic Politics in the United States: Critical Feminist Perspectiues.


KHARKHoRDTN is a Russian scholar of diverse interests, whose recent articles have appeared in such journals as EuropeAsia Studies and International Sociologt. He has been a lecturer in political theory at the European Universiry in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is currently an Academy Scholar at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard Universiry. He recently received his Ph.D. in political science from the Universiry of California at Berkeley, for which he wrote a dissertation on the historical formation of the individual and the collective in Soviet society.
SILVER is professor of sociology at Columbia Universiry. He has published studies of British, American, and French politics; the political sociology of military