efficiency and inflation: the craft of writing

I’m wading through Christian Fuchs Digital Labour and Karl Marx. Fuchs is a leading researcher on internet studies, social media and digital economy. But wow, the man needs an editor. I can’t believe Routledge published this in its form. It’s full of inflated sentences, terrible sentence structure, redundancies and otherwise unnecessary tautological-esque statements like, “The contemporary return of Marx was preceded by a disappearance of Marx” (60).

I don’t really mean to pick on Fuchs here. I am confident there are important ideas in there. I am less confident in my patience to find them. Rather, it is a segue to the style of writing and the shifting responsibility to authors to do their own editing, or paying for an editor, before a book published (from which the author will make little or no money….) Personally, I wrestle with the appropriate ‘style.’ I sit in between the Humanities and Social Sciences, between grammar nazis and the authoritarian citation regime. As one who gravitates towards a phenomenological mode of writing, it moves me farther away from the social sciences. But the material I engage and am interested in solidly puts me, well somewhere, among the disciplines within the social sciences. In what style do I write, knowing full well that we cultivate the skill through practice.

If a publisher is the entity that stands to make the most money from publishing monographs, it is astonishing that they would publish work that hasn’t been culled through by a shrewd, or even more efficient, set of eyes. I subjected myself to this before sending off some writing today, and it is incredibly illuminating to see what a second set of eyes can do for all of the above issues Fuchs’s text has. Of course, I already know about my tendency to write long sentences, have too many clauses, and my argument can sometimes be circular. I both thank (and blame) Heidegger for highlighting my tendency and giving me a model that I duplicate without thinking about it (in that order). I am interested in honing this skill to keep from alienating the reader, but its hard to hone without this sort of constructive criticism.

The craft of writing is incredibly important. Not only to be clear in what we are trying to communicate (precision), but also to impress upon the reader why they should remain invested in the very ideas we are putting forward (i.e. not dry or boring). And with the pressure to publish frequently and often, craft seems likely the first to go. If we want to make academic work relevant beyond our own club, craft seems like it should be the most important thing to consider.