Coda, or the Last Few Bars



In his Theory of the Avant-Garde, Renato Poggioli has written, ‘… the avant-garde [is] destined to perish if our civilization is condemned to perish, that is, if the world as we know it is destined to fall before a new order in which mass culture is the only form of admissible or possible culture, an order that inaugurates an uninterrupted series of totalitarian communities unable to allow a single intellectual minority of survive, unable even to conceive of exception as valid or possible.’1 Unfortunately, the current predisposition of commercial publishers indefensibly to publish material that is stylistically homogenetic tends to make Poggioli’s comments prescient. As more and more major corporations buy out more and more publishers, the tendency towards publishing textual homogeneity becomes a palpable, pageable phenomenon that is only satisfactory if it reflects the theory of ‘the bottom line.’ What this economic monopoly on style can lead to is a true sense of Entfremdung, that Marxist state of alienation in which the individual (writer in this case) has lost any bonding with a society that has misplaced its sense of the human condition as well as its own historical mission within that context. In his essay, Assembly Line Publishing, Ben H. Bagdikian writes:

This conservative trend in book publishing arises from encapsulating that industry in the same economic and corporate culture that has put the whole American economy at risk. Like national economic policies, the establishmentarian bias has been pursued because it favors those with power to the disadvantage of the rest of society, including smaller enterprises. Promoted by conservative ideologues, this bias led to corporate gigantism and illiberality. The traditional big houses of the publishing world are now dominated by some of the same multinational corporations that also control other media. The new corporate owners typically cut back the size and diversity of book lists in their major imprints, not only out of greed but through some acts of monumental arrogance and stupidity about publishing.2


Publishing Industry Corporate Owner Major Corporation National Economic Policy Bliss Point 
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  1. 1.
    Renato Poggioli, The Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans, by Gerald Fitzgerald (Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1968), p. 109.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ben H. Bagdikian, ‘Assembly Line Production’, Tikkun Magazine, Vol. 5, No. 3, 1990, p. 42.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Roger Fowler, Linguistics and the Novel (London: Methuen, 1977), p. 125.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (London: Methuen, 1972), p. 36.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© M. R. Axelrod 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chapman UniversityOrangeUSA

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