May 19, 2016
By considering the precarious professional position of writers in modern society, this article raises the question, as to what mechanisms make an individual into an author. The general answer is: the mode of acknowledgment by the reading public and/or by one’s writing colleagues. As empirical evidence shows, novice writers find a promising path to acknowledgment by associating in exclusive groups. These function not only as a medium of socialization but also compensate for the organizational deficiencies in the writing profession. Affiliation in groups as well as collective appearance in the literary public are interpreted as strategies in the field of literature. With reference to Bourdieu’s theory of the literary field and its historical evolution the strategies of two influential German literary groups, the George-Kreis and the Gruppe 47, are compared. Although pursuing strictly opposing strategies both groups succeed in acquiring “symbolic gains” which enable them to find not only acknowledgment but also to establish dominance in the literary field. The main conclusion of the analysis is that the “reversed economy” of the literary field rewards exclusive as well as inclusive strategies: by-passing the market by (temporarily) de-coupling production from demand (George-Kreis) can be just as successful as controling the market by erecting a cartel-like compound economy including authors, critics, and publishers.