The definition of print –capitalism
Print-capitalism is defined by Benedict Anderson as the emergence of printing press under the system of capitalism. Both the print technology and the newspapers’ function play an important role in the construction of the image of nations, the print-capitalism in modern society create an imagined community which is different from the conventional communities.
The theoretical elements of the concept
Print-capitalism is closely related to the function of the press. Newspapers play crucial role in constructing the imagined community, it connect different things together, and people simultaneously consume the newspaper as fiction. The print-languages establish the bases for national consciousnesses, the combination of print technology and capitalism makes the influence of newspaper powerful.
Benedict Anderson analyzes the print-capitalism in the context of the origin of nationalism and the transformation of the Marxism and Marxist movement. There are many wars broken up between the socialism countries, such as the sino-soviet border clashes in 1969. The conflicts disproved the standpoint held by many Marxists that the nationalism will soon vanish in the world. Nationalism is defined as a radically changed form of consciousness. One of the functions of nationalism is that it construct the imagined community—the nations. Because most of us doesn’t know others living in the country but have no contacts with us. In this sense, nationalism invents nations. On the other hand, nationalism cultivates peoples’ patriotism and makes people are totally willing to sacrifice their life for the imagined community.
Print-capitalism is developed from the transformation of language: from sacred language used by the religion and the Latin hegemony to mother language. Nationalism is related to the cultural systems, which includes the religious community and the dynastic realm. These two classical systems are different from the imagined community of modern nations. The religious community is organized by the sacred language, especially the language of Latin, most of the books printed before 1640 is written by Latin, it can only understand by few people, there is a Latin’s hegemony. Benedict Anderson named it print –capitalism, accompanied by the fall of Latin’s hegemony, the sacred community gradually fragmented.
Print –capitalism and communication science
Communication can be used to interpret the historical events, and Harold Innis examines the rise and fall of ancient empires to trace the media effects. Analogous to Innis, Benedict Anderson analyses the rise of nationalism with the print-capitalism.
An interesting thought proposed by Benedict Anderson is that capitalist press companies act locally and print the newspapers in vernacular to maximize their profits, but a common discourse emerged in the evolution process, in the earlier time, part of people use Latin to communicate with each other, while the ordinary people use their mother language, this limit the large-scale communication in national wide scope. The common discourse’s existence promotes the common simultaneous understanding over the same media agenda.
Print-capitalism accelerates the development of the state language. The language of state leads to the self-conscious existence. Language is the hometown of the human beings. The language of state is related to the official nationalism, official nationalism is related to the development of modern countries. After the language of nation is adopted by the print-capitalism, the print-language comes true and it invents nationalism. The print-language can be mother tongue, English, or new born language, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that it will be adopted by the mass media and the public.
The print-capitalism can be used to explain the origin of the last wave nationalism. The classic thinking style of Benedict Anderson is that why does nationalism come so late in some country, in this way, he studies the “last wave” nationalism and their origins. One important conclusion is that the linguistic uniformity lead to the last wave of nationalism, but accompanied by the communication revolution, it’s possible to overcome this problem.
The theory of nationalism represents the Marxism’s great historical failure.
——Tom Nairn (Anderson 1983)
Anderson, B. 1983. Imagined community. London: Verson:p3.