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Stanford University Press
Guarding Life's Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety, and Privacy / Edition 1

Guarding Life's Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety, and Privacy / Edition 1

by Lawrence M. Friedman
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Guarding Life's Dark Secrets tells the story of an intriguing aspect of the social and legal culture in the United States, the construction and destruction of a network of doctrines designed to protect reputation. The strict and unbending rules of decency and propriety of the nineteenth century, especially concerning sexual behavior, paradoxically provided ways to protect and shield respectable men and women who deviated from the official norms. This "Victorian compromise," which created an important zone of privacy, first came under attack from moralists for its tolerance of sin. During the second half of the twentieth century, the old structure was largely dismantled by an increasingly permissive society.
Rich with anecdotes, Friedman's account draws us into the present. The Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution to include a right of privacy, which has given ordinary people increased freedom, especially in matters of sex, reproduction, and choice of intimate partners. The elite, however, no longer have the freedom they once had to violate decency rules with impunity. Although public figures may have lost some of their privacy rights, ordinary people have gained more privacy, greater leeway, and broader choices. These gains, however, are now under threat as technology transforms the modern world into a world of surveillance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780804757393
Publisher: Stanford University Press
Publication date: 11/08/2007
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Lawrence M. Friedman is Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. His books include Private Lives: Families, Individuals, and the Law (2005), American Law in the Twentieth Century (2004), and Legal Culture in the Age of Globalization (2003).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
The General Argument     1
Status and Mobility in the Nineteenth Century     22
Sticks and Stones: The Law of Defamation     41
The Victorian Compromise: Slippage and Control in the Moral Laws     63
The Anatomy of Blackmail     81
Good Women, Bad Women: Seduction, Breach of Promise, and Related Matters     101
Censorship: Its Rise and Fall     140
Into the Twentieth Century     175
Privacy and Reputation in the Late Twentieth Century     213
Defamation in Contemporary Times     235
A Summing Up-And a Cautious Look at the Future     257
Notes     273
Index     331

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