Lecture 1: The Process of Modernity

Process of Modernity video

No media without modernity, no modernity without media.

140,000 years ago: hunter-gatherer tribes.
12,000 years ago: agricultural villages.
4,000 years ago: market towns.
300 years ago: capitalist cities.

Politics and economics are phenomena of the last 4,000 years of human history = one 35th of the total.
Pre-modern tribal societies were hunter-gather matriarchies without money, markets and states.
Pre-modern agricultural societies are subsistence farming patriarchies: sharing; gifts; tribute; slavery; serfdom; plunder.
Money is surplus production: politics; taxes; war; religion; bureaucracy; art; festivals; trade; luxuries.
Feudalism: the moral economy; just prices and just wages; divine law; taboo on usury; artisan guilds and merchant fraternities; apprenticeships; pilgrimages; Holy Roman Empire; Arab Caliphate; Silk Route; the spice trade.

Chris Knight, Blood Relations.
Aristotle, The Politics.
Muhammad Ibn Khaldûn, The Mugaddimah.

Liberalism; the materialist conception of history; social evolution; grand narrative of human progress; social organisation of human labour.
Adam Smith’s theory of historical evolution: hunting -> herding -> agriculture -> commerce.

Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Volume 1 & Volume 2
Roy Porter, Enlightenment

Christopher Columbus ‘discovers’ America in 1492 and shifts the centre of the world to Western Europe: Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and England.
Imperialism: looting; slave trade; monopolies; concessions; colonies; protectorates.
World systems theory: Baghdad -> Cairo -> Venice -> Cadiz -> Amsterdam -> London -> New York

Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World-Economy.

‘The world presents itself as a fantastic array of commodities.’ – Karl Marx.
The evolution of money: merchant capital -> industrial and financial capital.
The evolution of politics: warriors and priests -> bureaucrats and propagandists.
The evolution of labour: peasants in countryside -> workers in cities.
The world market creates the nation state – and vice versa.
Capitalism is a phenomenon of the last 300 years of human history = one 466th of the total.

Elite literacy in sacred languages; oral culture of masses; popular songs and illuminated manuscripts.
Marshall McLuhan’s media technological determinism: oral culture -> printing -> TV and Net.
New media technologies as the subject of human history.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media.
Richard Barbrook, Imaginary Futures.

Block printing in 220 China -> Johannes Gutenberg: first printing press with moveable type in 1440 Germany.
Renaissance and Reformation; Holy Inquisition and Star Chamber; 1642 English Revolution: ‘free trade in ideas’.
Georg Hegel: the storming of the Bastille on 14th July 1789 was ‘the end of history’. The supersession of the master/slave dialectic of aristocratic society.

John Milton, Areopagitica.
Christopher Hill, The Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution.
Georg Hegel, The Philosophy of History.

Media freedom and religious tolerance as precondition of modernity.
Article 11 of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.
1st Amendment of the 1791 Constitution of the United States of America.
Article 7 of the 1793 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

Two centuries of the grand narrative of history: ‘making the real rational.’
Rival attempts to implement various Left and Right interpretations of media freedom:
Liberal model = media freedom of individuals.
Corporate model = media freedom of private and public businesses.
Totalitarian model = media freedom of the vanguard party.
Situationist model = media freedom of the workers’ councils.
McLuhanist model = media freedom of the global village.
New Left model = media freedom of social movements.
Neo-Liberal model = media freedom of entrepreneurs.
Post-Modern model = freedom from the media.
Net model = media freedom for everyone.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology: part 1.
Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man.

The Net as fulfilment of 1789, 1791 and 1793 promises of media freedom for all.
Article 19 of 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: right of everyone to receive media -> right of everyone to produce media.
Dotcom capitalism in the service of cybernetic communism – and vice versa.
2011 Arab Spring: Twitter and Facebook revolutions.

Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron, The Californian Ideology.
Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks.
Paul Mason, Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions.

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