The Emancipation of Writing: German Civil Society in the Making, 1790s-1820s

The Emancipation of Writing: German Civil Society in the Making, 1790s-1820s

The Emancipation of Writing: German Civil Society in the Making, 1790s-1820s

The Emancipation of Writing: German Civil Society in the Making, 1790s-1820s

Synopsis

"A superbly crafted major intervention into the hotly contested issue of German civil society - its origins, formation, and fate. McNeely turns the tables on deconstructive approaches to formalism in writing and shows how writing was thoroughly implicated in state power and corporate culture."--David Sabean, author of "Kinship in Neckarhausen, 1700-1870

"This work's use of archival evidence to overhaul grand theory puts it in a league of its own. McNeely crafts a startlingly original argument about the inventions of citizenship and of modern political culture. It will be required if unsettling reading for anyone pondering the legacies of Tocqueville, Habermas, or Foucault."--Richard Biernacki, author of "The Fabrication of Labor: Germany and Britain, 1640-1914

Excerpt

German history has long centered on the state. in its various incarnations, the German state has acted as an instrument of totalitarianism, an agent of national unification, and an architect of civil war, religious reform, and social discipline. Often depicted as the source of ultimate oppression, sometimes viewed as an “organic” entity with a life and purpose of its own, and always acknowledged as a decisive player in European geopolitics, the state in many ways figures as the prime mover of German historical development. Scholars from Max Weber onward have recognized the centrality of bureaucracy to the state's power. a country where every official encounter is subjected to a stamped form or a sealed certificate, Germany is both renowned and despised for its bureaucratic political culture. Little concrete attention has been paid, however, to the importance of writing as the handmaiden of bureaucracy and thus the medium of Germany's most potent apparatus of authority. the sheer abundance of written formalities in daily life has often seemed to reduce German citizens to passive creatures of an administrative monolith. Yet, as this book will argue, the German state's reliance upon writing could just as easily undercut its domination and disperse its influence.

This book situates the production and power of official texts amidst the strategies and assumptions governing the use of writing in German society as a whole. I want people who read it to think differently about the exercise of power, through official writing, at the interface between state and citizenry. “Bureaucracy” must be disaggregated into the specific texts and practices of writing conferring authority on state officials. Writing must, at the same time, be viewed as a means for ordinary people to practice their citizenship. Citizenship is often conceptualized as an identity, as an amalgam of legal rights and cultural statuses defining a body of citizens in its relation to the state. However, this book treats citizenship as a practice, unearthing . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.