Positional pricing, positional leverage

To understand positional leverage, we first need a theory of public belief. My contention is that—to give a “just so” story from our evolutionary history—humans have traditionally lived in relatively small communities, where individual opinion held some sway in group decision-making, if only by exerting tacit pressure on a chieftain or council of elders. (We see this dynamic still: politicians in democratic societies are beholden to their populations, so that even if individual discontents are not registered, widespread discontents are.) Public beliefs, then, are situated, strategic interventions into a communal decision-making discourse.

Metric Prose in Austen’s Emma

Rhetorician Fred Scott divides writing into what he dubs the “motative” and “nutative” styles. Nutative writing, as its name implies, has a rhythm which nods; it was, contemporaneous with Austen, synonymous with verse and poetry. Motative writing, meanwhile, moves: Scott describes it as having the rhythm of the tides, moving shore-ward with each successive rising and falling wave, then receding back again in a similar fashion. It is writing which has climaxes and troughs but which bases its dynamicism on  content. (Pound’s distinction between the “musical” and the “metronomic” comes to mind.) Motative writing is primarily communicative; it encompasses the essay, the argument, the novel — essentially, prose writing.