L'économie de la culture by Françoise Benhamou

By Françoise Benhamou

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Example text

Plato’s dialogues and Aristotle’s treatises consist of logically coherent, lengthy strings of reasoning, clear definitions and meta-discussions of the nature of language and words, all of which presupposes a clear distinction between a concept and its object. Language is, in other words, severed from the speech act, it is reified and externalised. The ideas can be subjected to critical examination, one may go back and forth in the text to check what the author said on the previous page, and one may examine, at one’s leisure, the degree of logical coherence in the reasoning.

Or perhaps better: Like books, manufactured goods became cheaper and more easily available. Industrial production synchronises work and standardises its products. An item, such as, say, a mini-disc recorder, is identical with all other items of the same make and model, and if it is unique, that is because of some defect. In the society of craftmanship, on the contrary, each object was individually made and unique. The time recorder and the factory clock belong to the industrial mode of production.

Printing entailed standardisation in other countries as well, and facilitated access to books written in native languages, at the expense of Latin. The market was suddenly much larger than the small elite of Latin scholars. Printing was a decisive factor for the emergence of new science, philosophy and literature in early modern times. It was crucial for both mass education and the creation of civil society in European cities, and led to consequences Gutenberg could never have foreseen. His main ambitions seem to have been to print Bibles and pay his debts.

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