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The commodity created under global capitalism originates from everywhere and seems to have been made by everyone. Endlessly fungible, it is also endlessly divisible. Analysis of the commodity reveals the indissoluble link between commodification and technologization. Although the medieval commodity is a very different kind of object, not issuing from an economy dedicated to commodity production, and being produced more regionally, the link between production and technology applies to the Middle Ages as much as it does to now. Medieval technology, in particular road-building, is commonly regarded as a regression in comparison to Roman engineering skills. I argue, however, for the directedness of medieval technology, even when in apparent regress. This ‘regression’ calls into question the narratives of progress that inform debates about the posthuman, with all its attendant anxieties and heady possibilities. The case of medieval roads exposes the contingency of ‘efficiency’ as any standard of measure.


This article was originally published in Postmedieval: a Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies (2010) 1, 10-17.

doi: 10.1057/pmed.2010.1



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