Round Tables
Tables Rondes

24. The individual and the notion of private life
24. L'individu et le concept de vie privée

Thursday, 10 August, 9:00-12:00
Jeudi 10 août de 9h à 12h

Building A, Auditorium 5

Eva Österberg, Sweden

Youri L. Bessmertny, Russia

The idea of privacy, according to some scholars, seems to have emerged fully in the nineteenth century in England, linked to the establishment of a "bourgeois" culture. However, the analytical categories of private-public, individualism-collectivism, as well as the fundamental notion of the individual as a self-reflective person and moral subject, are in fact equally valid whether historians study the Middle Ages or Modem and post-modem times.

Quite often Habermas has functioned as a vital starting-point in the debate. Recent research, however, has challenged Habermas' conceptions of private-public, drawing both on historical studies in a long-term perspective, gender studies and cultural studies. Aron Gurevic, among others, has questioned older ideas concerning the importance of the Renaissance period in the creation of the individual; instead his focus is on the Middle Ages. On the other hand, the post-modem challenge, in Zygmuut Bauman's words, means "pluralism of authority and the centrality of choice in the self-constitution of post-modern agents". As a consequence, a new interest has developed in the issue of the construction of a self, the need of becoming "not just an actor and decision-maker, but a moral subject."

The approach taken in the session is that private life and the notions of the individual may be analysed both as discourses and social realities. They have been constructed in different ways in different societies and among different groups of people; they may vary according to class, sex, gender, race, and, not in the least, over time. There is a need for specialised historical knowledge in the field, and there is a need to question our concepts in a global context.


Round Table 23
Table Ronde 23



Round Table 25
Table Ronde 25