Marcus Boon


On his book In Praise of Copying

Cover Interview of November 10, 2010

In a nutshell

What you’re reading right now is a copy.  I’m using only words taken and recycled from other places.

You probably do it too.  Even the questions you’re asking are copies, repetitions.

You might think that I’m criticizing you.  But In Praise of Copying argues that copying is an essential part of being human, that the ability to copy is worthy of celebration, and that, without recognizing how integral copying is to being human, we cannot understand ourselves or the world we live in.

This is a deceptively simple—but original—argument.

In spite of the laws, stigmas, and anxieties attached to it, the word “copying” permeates contemporary culture.  Copying shapes discourse on issues from hip-hop to digitization to gender reassignment.  Copying is particularly crucial in legal debates concerning intellectual property and copyright.  Yet as a philosophical concept, copying remains poorly understood.

Working comparatively across cultures and times, I examine what this word means—historically, culturally, philosophically, even biologically—and why it fills us with fear and fascination.

I argue that the dominant legal-political structures that define copying today obscure much broader processes of imitation that have constituted human communities for ages and continue to shape various subcultures today.

Drawing on contemporary art, music and film, the history of aesthetics, critical theory, and Buddhist philosophy and practice, In Praise of Copying seeks to show how and why copying works, what the sources of its power are, and the political stakes of renegotiating the way we value copying in the age of globalization.

I copied some of this from the dustjacket of my book…