The Demon of Writing:
Powers and Failures of Paperwork
by Ben Kafka
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Let’s reject the knee-jerk assumption: Paperwork is not dull. Time consuming, vexing, and prone to error, yes; but, as chronicled by Ben Kafka, never dull. Paperwork deserves our derision, but, Kafka argues, it also warrants our consideration, since it holds inordinate sway over our politics and psyches. As proof, Kafka sets his study of paperwork’s powers and failures around the French Revolution, when the application of Enlightenment principle became inseparable from the implementation of clerical protocol. Circa 1789, paperwork—which Kafka defines as documents produced by demand of the state—became the civil contract’s material support. Paperwork made modern government both noble and irksome, by shuffling together the exaltation of standing equal before the law with the enervation of standing in line.
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