By B. Baldwin
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Extra info for An Anthology of Byzantine Poetry
2: 535). qxp 34 2/28/2006 11:56 AM Page 34 “Like Parchment in the Fire” So, Christopher Kendrick is right when he says that a dialectic was working within Milton as he composed Areopagitica. It is only that it is not the dialectic of the split bourgeois individual. It is dialectic between the agrarian democratic republican and the equally democratic and emerging liberal. Milton is the supreme example during the seventeenth- century who proves that it is hurried, superficial and ill-advised to search for too radical a break between Machiavelli and Locke.
The capitalist subject is at once created and being “symbolically” reacted against. The two drives—of possession and proprietorship, as Kendrick names them, constantly battle each other. Areopagitica glorifies books as repositories of knowledge and wisdom. In the process, books are commodified as objects of possession. Books become objects unto themselves. At the same time Milton officially resists the very commodification process by challenging the act of censorship. What is actually being done is that the market structure is being fully naturalized and its free working given an ethical dimension.
For example, there is a double tendency in Areopagitica. Books should not be subject to licensing because it disrupts the healthy flow of the market. But books are not commodities to be marketed like other commodities because “the power of the book production is not commensurable with the commodity form”(58). The circulation of books depends on the normative ethical principles of anti-monopoly. The capitalist subject is at once created and being “symbolically” reacted against. The two drives—of possession and proprietorship, as Kendrick names them, constantly battle each other.