The philosopher Michel Foucault observed that 'We have become a singularly confessing society. The confession spreads its wings far and wide ... one confesses one's sins, one's thoughts and desires, one's illnesses and troubles; one goes about telling, with the greatest precision, what is most difficult to tell'. Foucault traces the tendency to bare all back to the Middle Ages, where it had its origins in the Catholic confessional. It has become a form of truth, he argued, progressively displacing the myths of bravery, courage and marvellous deeds that dominated previous eras and other cultures.Spit and Tell, The Guardian
Foucault died in 1984, before the internet took off and before the age of celebrity had really got going. That age introduces a massive generalisation of the confessional principle, now completely secularised. Everything the celebrity does has to be visible, as part and parcel of what celebrity is. This is the reason why those who become celebrities talk endlessly of the intrusions of the media, of their inability any longer to be a private citizen, yet at the same time are hopelessly addicted to the very processes about which they complain.
31 May 2008
Anthony Giddens writes,