Transcending “Textual Serfdom”

Ian F. Mcneely

in The Emancipation of Writing

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780520233300
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520928527 | DOI:
Transcending “Textual Serfdom”

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter explains how, after Napoleon's invasions, the synthesis of formality and collegiality collapsed under civil society's separation from the state. The scribes ceased to function as a mediating class and instead became the agents of administrative colonization. The impressive jump in the incomes of New Württemberg Schreiber can be attributed to the massive adjustments inherent in a change of regime: Vielschreiberei resulted when the scribes applied a battery of new textual formalities to localities previously unaccustomed to them. The constitutional discourse of the Good Old Law hindered a greater political unity by poisoning the mutual relationships binding government and people with defensiveness and suspicion. Friedrich List's writings defined the new role formality should play in modern civic culture. List's publications represented the emancipation of writing from all aspects of the scribes' influence; they gave a voice to a civil society now fully liberated from textual serfdom.

Keywords: textual serfdom; civil society; formality; collegiality; administrative colonization; Friedrich List; Good Old Law; Schreiber; Vielschreiberei

Chapter.  13836 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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