Literary Property Owners or Intellectual Workers? French Writers in Search of a Status

French Writes in Search of a Status
By Gisèle Sapiro, Boris Gobille

The writer oscillates between many social models: he is the owner of his goods and can also be considered as a worker who is paid for the product of his work, although the intellectual dimension of his activity, which can be likened to a service, distinguishes him from the manual worker and the salaried employee. The conception of the author as proprietor prevailed in the first half of the nineteenth century; however, the transformations of writers’ working conditions that came with publishing capitalism, and the struggle for recognition of their social rights from the Popular Front to May ‘68, led to the promotion of the model of the “intellectual worker”. This definition did not, however, succeed in imposing itself entirely. These different conceptions were put forth by individuals and competing professional organizations, and were in perpetual confrontation from the 1930s until the 1970s around a series of issues which are successively analyzed in this paper: author’s rights, the question of the paying public domain, and the author’s social status.

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