Writing is often branded as a “worthless pursuit” because of its supposed lack of social impact and profitability. Throughout the writing process, including the stages of idea conception, construction, and sale, writers must contend with economic considerations that not only reinforce the capitalist evaluation of writing as a futile activity whose success is contingent upon being able to recoup “lost time” but also erode the writer’s self-agency in dictating their ideas. Capitalist publishing forces, including the corporations involved in traditional print forms of publishing as well as pioneers of digital self-publishing such as Amazon, intentionally set conditions for publication that prevent writers from earning a living compensation. A lack of funding for libraries and for writing grants further contributes to a wider issue of cultural degeneracy and monolithic cultural consumption. I seek to prove that conditions set by publishing entities as well as the various capitalist considerations under which an author works constitute a lack of self-determination and an eventual subsumption of writing products into a wider profit-oriented system. I evaluate the efficacy of certain solutions, including a universal basic income (UBI) and an increase in patronage of independent non-profit presses. Greater awareness of the exploitative methods used by the publishing industry as well as a greater appreciation for the cultural impact of writing is critical to support present and future writers.
Download Full Text (207 KB)
Lee, Kathryn, "Writing as a "Worthless Pursuit": An Interrogation of Writing under Capitalism" (2022). Research Days Posters 2022. 83.