The Short-lived Concepts of Blackmail & Privacy

October 5, 2009

I just learned that the very concept of blackmail didn’t really exist prior to the 19th century. Before the rise of “professional classes” whose economic and social status depended on their reputation, the whole idea of blackmail was by and large logically impossible: nobles remained members of the nobility — with all the rights and appurtenances pertaining thereto”! — regardless of their behavior.
But what about members of the clergy?
And today… being blackmailed and exposing the threat apparently amounts to a brilliant career move!
Is the related notion of privacy a similarly short-lived virtue? It began in the 17th century — with the rise of the Dutch bourgeoisie. But do any teenagers you know really care about privacy?

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