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There have been extended efforts to define “privacy” within political thought and the social sciences as well as within the context of legal disputes in the courts. In political theory, the public/private divide is associated mostly with the liberal tradition, in which privacy is linked to a private sphere that designates an area of life in which an individual can tell both the state and others that access to his body or information about him, including his correspondence, is “none of their business.” This has historically been gendered and associated with private property ownership, which gives the right to exclude others from a particular place, in particular the family home. In common law countries wives did not have the right to refuse their husbands access to their bodies until late into the twentieth century. For example, in the UK this marital exception to the rape laws persisted until a famous case in 1992. This last remnant of the doctrine of coverture persisted beyond other relationships that were defined by status.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of Political Thought
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781118474396
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • dignity
  • feminism
  • freedom
  • human rights
  • information society
  • Internet

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