Privacy in a Public Society: Human Rights in Conflict

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Oxford University Press, 1987 - Law - 255 pages
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Personal privacy is perceived as one of our most important rights--and the loss of privacy, one of our worst fears. This book addresses that issue. Hixson sees privacy as a privilege, and one well worth protecting, but not on the grand scale that claims for privacy are pressed today (witness celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor trying to patent their personalities).
Hixson asserts that "an open and democratic society cannot tolerate a high degree of privacy." He argues that whenever personal privacy becomes a mere self-protective shield, it is self-defeating and attained at the expense of the community's well-being. This book is a comprehensive examination of the citizen's right to be left alone as against the citizenry's need for information. Hixson draws upon the humanistic and utilitarian values expressed by Jefferson, Bentham, Tocqueville, Emerson, and Holmes, as well as, in our own time, the public philosophies of Hannah Arendt, Ronald Dworkin, Alexander Meiklejohn, Aldous Huxley, and Robert Bellah. Court cases illustrate the relationship between the private person and an open democratic society, which includes an unfettered press. The first part of the book deals with the philosophical and legal foundation of privacy while the bulk of it treats the conflict over the idea of privacy in the media-oriented mass society today, particularly in the age of the computer.
Controversial, trenchant, pithy, this is an important book on a major public issue.

About the Author:
Richard F. Hixson is Professor of Communication Law and Journalism History in the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, Rutgers University. He has written widely on privacy not only for scholarly reviews and magazines but also for The New York Times and other consumer publications.

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