Archiv für Sozialgeschichte
Band XLIII/ 2003 - Summaries

Adelheid von Saldern,

A Market for Marx. Literature Business and Readers' Movements in the Federal Republic in the 1960s and 1970s

This essay deals with the interplay between the Market and Marx, with a decade long close relationship (from the middle of the 1960s to the middle of the 1970s) between the New Left and various publishers, between leftist authors and leftist editors, between literature as a business and readers' movements. Regardless of their different political backgrounds and ties, they all shared the desire to create an "alternative public sphere" critical of society. "Readers' Movements" are understood here as a "communication space", created primarily via printed media. This space was leftist in its orientation and characterised by a great diversity, which is expressed through the use of the plural. The essay subdivides into three sections. The first part provides a comprehensive overview of the development of the literature business in the 1960s and 1970s. Literature as a business is treated as a field (Pierre Bourdieu), dominated primarily by established publishers, on whose periphery, however, a second small field of leftist publishers developed, who made the field as a whole more dynamic, and who published an unprecedented abundance of left-wing literature, frequently oriented towards Marx. This success was based on an equally dynamic and growing body of consumers and readers. As a result of this dynamic process, leftist literature movements were temporarily able to shift the political positions of a considerable portion of the West German public and even to partially attain hegemony. This is illustrated in the second part. The readers' movements, mainly upheld by pupils, university students, young academics and teachers, were closely interwoven with an intensive culture of communication and discussion, a network of close contacts, as well as certain lifestyle patterns. However, these new forces were not able to sustain themselves permanently as a literature movement, for reasons elaborated on in the third part of the essay. All in all, it can be said that the readers' movements prepared and accompanied the student movement and created gateways to the new social movements of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their history, therefore, should not be omitted in any history of the old Federal Republic of Germany.


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