Dividing Public and Private: Law, Politics, and Social Theory

Dividing Public and Private: Law, Politics, and Social Theory

Dividing Public and Private: Law, Politics, and Social Theory

Dividing Public and Private: Law, Politics, and Social Theory

Synopsis

The distinction between private and public realms of experience, of social activity and of personal identity, are fundamental for shaping everyday understanding and organization of social life. This study makes the public/private division central to social theory and social inquiry. Turkel demonstrates that by placing the public/private distinction at the center of social thought and by rethinking the writings of such classical theorists as Marx, Durkheim, Weber, and Parsons through the prism of the public/private dichotomy, new dimensions are raised for the analysis of authority, legitimacy, law, political participation, and the very meanings of freedom and necessity.

Excerpt

In this book, I have sought to provide ways to more fully comprehend relations among our collective and personal conditions of life by focusing on changing divisions among public and private actions, institutions, and meanings. I do this by reworking core themes and concepts in traditions of social thought, paying particular attention to approaches to law and politics. This work is done in the spirit that thinking is itself a political act: reworking, deepening, and clarifying our understanding of the social sources of our identities, our institutions, and our actions renews our principles, our commitments, and our capacities for making our world.

I have benefited greatly in writing this book from the comments of people who have read it in whole or in part in earlier versions. I especially want to thank Richard Appelbaum, Sally Bould, William Chambliss, Paul Colomy, Richard Flacks, Sandra Harding, Christine Harrington, Brinkley Messick, and David Sciulli for helping me clarify and extend my thinking. Many of the ideas presented here were developed through discussions with graduate students in courses that I have taught in social theory and in the sociology of law at the University of Delaware. I hope that these students have learned as much from me as I have from them over the years. Frank Scarpitti, Chairperson of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware, has provided me with encouragement and support to see this work come to fruition. I thank Linda Keen, Teresa Robeson, and Judy Watson, the office staff in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, for their incredibly efficient and goodnatured help in producing the various drafts of this book.

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