Catherine Liu: A Brief Genealogy of Privacy CTRL [Space]: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother

In his eulogy for Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas described Foucault’s rereading of Kant’s essay “What is Enlightenment?” as an act that brought to light Kant’s gesture of mobilizing philosophy “to take aim at the heart of the most actual features of the present.”1Habermas disagreed profoundly with Foucault about the Enlightenment and took issue with the “ironic distance” and stoic asceticism displayed by the latter with regard to Enlightenment values. Despite the depth of their disaccord, Habermas proposed that Foucault’s reading of Kant’s essay sets it up as one inaugural moment of philosophical modernity. After Kant, history’s demands upon philosophy resonate with the urgency of contemporary contradictions. In trying to understand, then, the difficulty of thinking through the question of privacy and rights to privacy in the age of state-sponsored surveillance, I propose to undertake a brief genealogy of privacy in order to better understand what is at stake in the drive for total surveillance as well as in the struggle to protect the right to privacy. This work must be performed along the lines of Foucault’s “labor of diverse inquiries,” which entails “archaeological and genealogical study of practices envisaged as a technological type of rationality and as strategic games of liberties.”2