Public World of the Ancien Regime

The second reading is chapter 5 titled Public and Private.  The author presents a slightly different perspective of the private and public spheres by placing them in the context of the larger society, with its attendant interpersonal relations, social norms and trends, individual needs, rights and aspirations. This reading too is historically well informed, as evidenced by its focus on the history of individual rights in European societies.  It studies the evolution of individual rights against the backdrop of the larger society and thereby ascertains the limits to free expression in the private and public realms.

The reading neatly articulates the extent to which individuals can express themselves in the public realms by way of giving sound rationales for the same.  Similarly, the author distinguishes between the possible public realms for adults and children, as their social needs and skills are quite different.  It is also suggested that expression within the public space is a function of the socio-political milieu applicable to the case.  Hence the distinctions and limitations are not rigid and unalterable but rather fluid and evolving.

The reading is full of apt quotations from eminent thinkers of the past, including Jonathan Swift, John Wilkes, Voltaire, Rousseau, Samuel Johnson, etc.  The rigor and depth of analysis is also appreciable.  In conclusion, the reading aids our understanding of public space by studying it in the context of individual needs, rights and impulses for liberty.