Why did the cultural innovations reviewed by Cracraft “have to be adopted?”

Reading Cracraft left me wondering about one specific phrase in the following passage.

“New ways of dress, deportment, communication, navigation, building, gardening, gunnery, drawing, computing, measuring, sculpting, writing, visualizing, indeed of thinking had to be adopted along with new vocabularies needed for naming these activities and all the new weapons, tools and devices associated with them. A cultural revolution thus underlay and ultimately linked up all of Peter’s revolutionary projects, “culture” being our common word for the innumerable ways of human beings have of making and doing things, and of thinking and talking about them.” (2003, 75-76, my emphasis)

I am wondering about the meaning of the phrase “had to be adopted,” marked in the above passage by my italics. In what sense did all the cultural innovations reviewed by Cracraft have to be adopted? Does he mean that the cultural revolution itself in some way forced the adoption of the various innovations? This latter question doesn’t make much sense to me. It seems that cultural change just consists in the adoption of new ideas, tools, and practices. Peter’s cultural revolution, then, didn’t cause, or necessitate, the adoption of innovations, rather, the cultural revolution just was the adoption of innovations.

Does he mean their adoption was coerced, or at least instigated, by Peter, e.g. the shaving of the beards? This interpretation fits with the idea of Peter as the Prime Mover of the cultural revolution, and Cracraft’s remark (2003, 77) that cultural revolutions are “consciously intended.”

In some cases of cultural innovation, however, it seems that the specific changes were dictated, or at least enabled,  (in part) by the nature of the technologies involved. For example, the printing revolution required a new, simplified alphabet. The adoption of new painting technologies enabled the revolution in painting techniques. I also invite us to review the back and forth process of military innovations in attack and defense, each innovation prompting the next in the dynastic aggrandizement game of Capture the Fortress. Does the nature of technology (here meant to include practices and techniques as well as devices and tools) challenge the view that the cultural revolution was all up to Peter, that Petrine revolutionary change proceeded mainly from him and by him? Perhaps he was merely reacting to technological innovations that had already swept across western Europe.

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *