Currently rereading Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities a classic Verso book from 1983 discussing “Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.”
He cites the emergence of print as key to getting the message out to the people – in the vernacular. In the following extract he neatly sums up the dynamics of print, identity and a recognition that it is only after events have (e)merged onto the social scene that names are appended to the social changes and “concepts”, “models” and “blueprints” :
“…as literacy increased, it became easier to arouse popular support, with the masses discovering a new glory in the print elevation of languages they had humbly spoken all along. [what now of social media?]
Up to a point, then, Nairn’s arresting formulation – “The new middle-class intelligentsia of nationalism had to invite the masses into history; and the invitation-card had to be written in a language they understood” – is correct [The Break up of Britain Tom Nairn 1981 pp340] But it will be hard to see why the invitation came to seem so attractive, and why such different alliances were able to issue it (Nairn’s middle class intelligentsia was by no means the only host), unless we turn finally to piracy. [www?]
Hobsbawn [pp80] observes that “The French Revolution was not made or led by a formed party or movement in the modern sense [Libya today?], nor by men attempting to carry out a systemic programme. It hardly even threw up “leaders” of the kind to which twentieth century revolutions have accustomed us, until the post-revolutionary figure of Napoleon. [emphasis added] The overwhelming and bewildering concatenation of events experienced by its makers and its victims became a “thing” – and with its own name: The French Revolution.”
So one imagines: what are the new communities? And what are emerging literacies? It is probably no understatement to say we are living in tumultous times.