Where Shall We Draw the Line? Conservatism, Privacy and Digital Modernity

18 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2018

Date Written: October 6, 2018


Privacy has primarily been the focus of debate for the liberal tradition, as it appears at the interface between a number of competing liberal ideals, ranging from individual autonomy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, soft paternalism, private property and redistribution of wealth. Less attention has been paid to the relationship between conservatism and privacy. This paper will argue that as we move into a world characterised by digital modernity, privacy can be viewed through the lens of modernity, not ideology, and defended with resources within conservatism.

A conservative who chose to defend modernity against digital modernity, then, has much more of a need to defend privacy than a traditionalist who defends the pre-modern against modernity. Those in the tradition of Burke and Tocqueville, such as Roger Scruton or John Gray, have little need or requirement to defend privacy as such (although they might). However, a conservative who sees modernity as an important social moment, such as Michael Oakeshott, should see the defence of privacy against the encroach of personalisation as one of the key battlegrounds of his ideological struggle.

Keywords: conservatism, privacy, modernity, digital modernity

Suggested Citation

O'Hara, Kieron, Where Shall We Draw the Line? Conservatism, Privacy and Digital Modernity (October 6, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3262386 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3262386

Kieron O'Hara (Contact Author)

University of Southampton ( email )

University Rd.
Southampton SO17 1BJ, Hampshire SO17 1LP
United Kingdom

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