The private sphere is the complement or opposite to the public sphere. The private sphere is a certain sector of societal life in which an individual enjoys a degree of authority, unhampered by interventions from governmental or other institutions. Examples of the private sphere are family and home.
In public-sphere theory, on the bourgeois model, the private sphere is that domain of one's life in which one works for oneself. In that domain, people work, exchange goods, and maintain their families; it is therefore, in that sense, separate from the rest of society.
The parameters separating public and private spheres are not fixed but vary both in (cultural) space and in time.
In the classical world, economic life was the prerogative of the household,〔M. I Finley, ''The World of Odysseus'' (1967) p. 69 and p. 91〕 only matters which could not be dealt with by the household alone entered the public realm of the polis.〔J. O'Neill, ''Sociology as a Skin Trade'' (1972) p. 22-3〕 In the modern world, the public economy permeates the home, providing the main access to the public sphere for the citizen become consumer.〔J. O'Neill, ''Sociology as a Skin Trade'' (1972) p. 23-4〕
In classical times, crime and punishment was the concern of the kinship group, a concept only slowly challenged by ideas of public justice.〔R. Fagles trans. ''Aeschylus: The Oresteia'' (1977) p. 21-2〕 Similarly in medieval Europe the bloodfeud only slowly gave way to legal control,〔G. O. Sayles, ''The Medieval Foundations of England'' (1967) p. 109 and 234〕 whereas in modern Europe only the vendetta would still attempt to keep the avenging of violent crime within the private sphere.
Conversely, in early modern Europe, religion was a central public concern, essential to the maintenance of the state, so that details of private worship were hotly debated and controverted in the public sphere.〔J. H. Elliott, ''Europe Divided'' (1968) p. 93-5〕 Similarly, sexual behavior was subject to a generally agreed code publicly enforced by both formal and informal social control.〔F. Dabhoiwala, 'The First Sexual Revolution' ''The Oxford Historian'' X (2012) p. 41-6〕 In postmodern society, both religion and sex are now generally seen as matters of private choice.
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