Acclaimed essayist and Harper’s contributor Keizer (The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise, 2010, etc.) conducts a philosophical meditation on the nature of privacy and finds that the “right to be let alone” is a lot more complex than many may think.
In an era of phone-hacking scandals, invasive body scans and warrantless electronic snooping, it’s easy to conclude that traditional notions of privacy are under serious assault. But Keizer isn’t interested in restating the obvious. In an intellectually robust discussion of privacy, the author finds that what can properly be thought of as a true American virtue is actually a lot more precarious than normally presupposed. A man’s home may be his castle, but what about the lady of the house? How much “privacy,” historically speaking, has she been afforded? Does the cleaning woman who visits once per week fare even worse? When does “private” slip into something “secret”—and what's the difference? With unyielding analytical scrutiny, Keizer raises plenty of doubt about the primacy of so-called private lives. Omnipresent social networks and electronic conveniences aside, the author argues that personal privacy—whether artfully usurped or forcefully restricted—must still be maintained in order for democratically representative governments to exist. Unfortunately, class, gender and race each play a big role in undermining privacy when the needs of “The Market” bump up against individual rights. Keizer provides a profound discourse sure to challenge comfortably held notions about privacy. The consequences of such revelations are vast, and readers will be left considering the implications long after the last page is turned.
A provocative and unsettling look at something most take for granted—but shouldn’t.