Raymond Williams: ‘Mobile Privatization’

“There is then a unique modern condition, which I defined in an earlier book (Television: technology and cultural form, 1974) as ‘mobile privatization’. It is an ugly phrase for an unprecedented condition. What it means is that at most active social levels people are increasingly living as small-family units, or, disrupting even that, as private and deliberately self-enclosed individuals, while at the same time there is quite unprecedented mobility of such restricted privacies. In my novel Second Generation (1964) I developed the image of modern car traffic to describe this now dominant set of social relations in the old industrial societies. Looked at from right outside, the traffic flows and their regulation are clearly a social order of a determined kind, yet what is experienced inside them -in the conditioned atmosphere and internal music of this windowed shell- is movement, choice of direction, the pursuit of self-determined private purposes. All the other shells are moving, in comparable ways but for their own different private ends. They are not so much other people, in any full sense, but other units which signal and are signalled to, so that private mobilities can proceed safely and relatively unhindered. And if all this is seen from outside as in deep ways determined, or in some sweeping glance as dehumanised, that is not at all how it feels like inside the shell, with people you want to be with, going where you want to go.”

Bonus: Dahlia Lithwick on the Canadian truckers protest

“Many observers have noted that weaponizing trucks as machines of occupation was what was radically new about the Freedom Convoy, and that is partly true. Trucks are not just a signifier of economic realities, but also mobile units in which one can live and move, almost wholly oblivious to the world around you, if you so choose. You can build your own ecosystem, communicate solely with like-minded souls, broadcast your own reality, and emerge only to demand unmasked service in local restaurants and shops.

The enduring lesson of the Ottawa occupation was that such arrangements not only shelter individuals from the genuine suffering that happens all around but can also lead them to an information deficit that confirms any belief.”

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