Dear Habermas Logo A Jeanne Site

Agencies Class Concepts, Fall 1999

How to E-Mail Exercises
How to Get an A or B
How to Get It Down to 25 Words
Consistency: Staying in Touch

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: December 7, 1999
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

Public/Private Spheres

Black Letter Concept Definition

Traditionally, there have been two spheres recognized: public and private. The public sphere covers our public interactions, education, business, government, community interactions. The private sphere belongs to the individual and the family. Particularly in the U.S., with its strong allegiance to individual freedom, we hesitate to intrude the public sphere into private sphere matters.

This has been one of the most difficult stumbling blocks in dealing with child and spousal abuse. Within the patriarchal scheme that informs our legal system, there has been a tenacious respect for the right of the "male head of household" to rule within the private sphere of the family. Government has hesitated to intrude. In fact, we are often not agreed on the most effective ways to intrude, since intrusion often involves harmful consequences to the family, breaking the family apart, when we still believe in the family's importance to our social system.

Questions to Help You Focus

  1. How does the public/private sphere concept affect the work of agencies?

    Since many U.S. citizens are firmly committed to individual responsibility and freedom, they view taking care of unsuccessful or disabled members of a family as the family's responsibility. That places responsibility firmly in the private sphere. Agencies, however, are government entities, squarely located in the public sphere. This produces many anomalies. Intrusion into personal lives becomes almost normative in an agency setting. Consider the structural violence that does to family pride, family self-esteem.