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Behind Closed Doors

PDF Behind Closed Doors weaves a rich cultural tapestry and takes readers on a fascinating intellectual journey. Smith shows how customs and norms have evolved throughout American history to create a notion of privacy, while we simultaneously developed a vigorous sense of curiosity about our neighbors, and even a willingness to practice surveillance on them. The book is hinged on these two impulses — keeping private and curiosity-driven surveillance. Smith chronicles Americans' earliest concerns about privacy, as colonial-era clergy were seeking to know everything about their congregants, thus hoping to drive evil away; and the rise of our concerns today about invasions of privacy perpetrated by credit bureaus and malign forces in the marketplace. We take many things for granted today, such as our mail not being read by others (only a norm once our first postmaster, Ben Franklin, decreed it). Smith tells about struggles between privacy and surveillance, such as J. Edgar Hoover's campaign against motels in the 1930s, which he saw as dangerous zones of privacy. Throughout his stimulating narrative, Smith continually presents surprising and illuminating facts from American history that will make readers sit up and take notice of a subject that exercises our emotions and our intellects.

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