Benedict Anderson takes a Benjaminian perspective when he argues that print capitalism is a primary factor in the rise of the epoch of the nation-state. Anderson argues that through the mechanical reproduction and subsequent commodification of print language, the relation of populations to language fundamentally changed. Print capitalism opened markets for print beyond Latin. This contributed to a â€œrevolutionary vernacularizingâ€ (Anderson, 39) of language, a spread of literacy, and a â€œchange in the character of Latin itselfâ€ (ibid.). The rise of printed vernaculars deposed Latin as a sacred language; a language that held the power to access God, and simultaneously was all but monopolized by the Catholic Church.
With the Protestant Reformation and the spread of printed vernacular languages, new communities that operated autonomously and even with no reference to the church became imaginable. As Anderson writes, â€œnothing served to â€˜assembleâ€™ related vernaculars more than capitalismâ€ (44). Capitalism created markets for language and a forum for the dissemination of information and ideas that became the foundation of nationalism. Anderson argues that print capitalism laid the basis for nationalism in three ways. First, print languages â€œcreated unified fields of exchangeâ€ (44) that allowed dialectically disparate populations to imagine themselves as part of a community through shared print language.
Print capitalism furthermore, â€œgave a new fixity to languageâ€ (44). We are able to access the language of past centuries in a way that was not possible before mechanically reproducible print. Thus language is stabilized and historical continuity from generations centuries past to present becomes more imaginable. Populations may now imagine the national community not only as one of contemporary society but as united to its historical origins.
Finally, print capitalism created new languages of power that were â€œelevated to a new politico-cultural eminenceâ€ (45). Thus hierarchies of linguistic power allowed some regions, communities, and ultimately nations to exercise political dominance over others. The exercise of linguistic power defines the relations of power and sets boundaries that may later be formed into nations and borders.