The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

TWoN Chapter 3

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If division of labor is caused and stimulated by the power of exchanging, then the size of the market must limit the degree to which labor can be divided.  In a small market, specialization will not develop–one thinks of the American frontier where each homestead had to be, in some measure, self-sufficient.  The limiting of specialization will limit the growth of the economy (ie, the productivity of labor).

On page 28: “As by means of water-carriage a more extensive market is opened to every sort of industry then what land-carriage alone afford it, so it us upon the sea-coast and along the banks of navigable rivers, that industry of every kind begins to subdivide and improve itself.”  What strikes me here is the relationship of technique–that is, transportation technology–to the impetus for other technologies.  I had already known that the better the transportation (as a special form of communication) the more technologies will feed on and inspire each other accross cultures, but I hadn’t considered how the market plays into this.  It would seem that, from the 16th Century to the 19th, improvements in transportation (roads, railways, &c) stimulated everything.  Cool.

He sort of throws out, on page 29, “…the first improvements of art and industry…”  Yes, of course, the development of art and the development of industry always have complex (and fascinating) interrelationships, but I hadn’t considered it in that way before; that is, that art would also be transformed by the same things that transformed industry.

On page 30 he discusses how much of culture and technology (and art!) originated around the Medditeranian, attributing it to the ease of transportation.  He ignores a number of other factors that contributed to it (climate, soil, the presence of herd animals), but that doesn’t weaken the point that the ease of transportation along the coast and up and down the various rivers must have been an emormous stimulous.

corwin

Author: corwin

Site administrative account, so probably Corwin, Felix or DD-B.

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  1. “Art” meant something quite different to people of that era than it does to us (especially in the utilitarian-inflected U.S.). It was a much broader term, inclusive of most purposeful applications of knowledge to the physical world. It’s the root of “artifice”, which didn’t pick up the patina of “fakeness” till much later. (Queen Anne is reported to have exclaimed at the unveiling of Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral that it was “awful, artificial, and amusing” — all terms of high praise in 1708.)

    So I would read “art” there as closer to “craft” and “knowledge” and even “technology”, rather than the modern use of “art”.

  2. Good point, rantingnerd. Thanks. I am now embarrassed, although my mistake led to some interesting ideas.

  3. skzb@2 — some of my most interesting ideas came from mistakes. (See also “hopeful monsters”. :-))

  4. Were I to be sent back to pre-industrial Europe, I’d want to own a ship on the Med with a trusted crew.

  5. Of course, the Mediterranean wouldn’t have that climate without all that water nearby.

    Tangent: I don’t know of any fantasy novels or RPG settings where the oceans, being (as they usually are, young) are freshwater. Not being dependent on casks or rainwater would free up exploration.

  6. That’s really serhwd! Good to see the logic set out so well.

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