COMPASS| Race, Class, and Privacy: A Critical Historical Review
This essay inspects the maldistribution of privacy rights across race and class divisions by engaging a social history of the development of these rights from their inception in American jurisprudence. In so doing, it engages a critical theoretical framework that commences by delineating the contours of media structure, and then investigates how this structure bears on discourses about privacy and surveillance. Rather than viewing intrusions of privacy rights as a perversion of an otherwise egalitarian rights construct, this approach sees privacy discourse as a coded form of a more fundamental discussion about where individuals fit in to prevailing social hierarchies. In so doing, this essay shows how privacy and property rights have an intertwined history, through which an antagonism develops in capitalist society’s attempt to balance property rights, social equity, and public trust. The resulting discourse on privacy is, then, reflective of this antagonism.