The Quality of Monopoly Capitalist Society: Culture and Communications

Baran, Paul A.; Sweezy, Paul M.

Publisher:  Monthly Review
Date Written:  01/07/2013
Year Published:  2013  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22477

This is a hitherto unpublished chapter of Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966). The text as published here has been edited and includes notes by John Bellamy Foster. The style conforms to that of their book. Part of the original draft chapter, dealing with mental health, was still incomplete at the time of Baran's death in 1964, and consequently has not be included in this published version.



The pride of place among cultural media has traditionally belonged to books. For long centuries manuscript books were the repository of man's knowledge, and the chief means by which it was passed on from one generation to the next. Since the discovery of printing, books have made the fruits of civilization accessible to ever wider strata of the population. While books have today been replaced by newspapers and periodicals as the predominant form of reading matter, and while their traditional functions have been partly taken over by records, film, and tape, they still retain a place of unique importance in society's cultural apparatus. And the quantity and quality of books written, published, and read in a society can certainly be taken as reliable indicators of its cultural condition.

In what follows, we do not claim to examine all aspects of the book business in the United States. We exclude textbooks. They are an integral part of the educational system and necessarily reflect its characteristics and requirements. We also exclude scientific, technical, and scholarly books: the publics which they reach are small and highly specialized. Finally, we largely neglect the segment of literary output which many people mistakenly think of as the main preoccupation of publishers: serious works of fiction and nonfiction, addressed to the general reader--"trade books" is the publishing term. According to the 1958 Census of Manufactures, adult trade books were only 4.2 percent of all books published that year and accounted for 7 percent of all receipts from sale of books. And the public which buys these books, apart from libraries and institutions of various kinds, is a very small segment of the population--even of the book-buying population. Clearly, books in this category are not bought by and have little influence on the vast majority of Americans: as indicators of society’s cultural condition they have a marginal significance.
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