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Why publish a monograph?

The research question is whether conscious choices are totally or at least predominantly economic, based on a calculation of gains and losses. The article does not seek a final solution, though, narrowing down to the conceivable principles of publishing a humanities monograph in Estonian. Case analysis is applied to the author’s recent experience in monograph publishing.

Part One explores the possibility of interpreting a book (monograph) to be published as an economic item. The analysis is not confined within the classical system of market economy as the prospective book is also discussed as symbolic capital and even as a source of possible pleasures enjoyed in the process of publication. Based on Jean Baudrillard it is shown that an emphasis on the value in use will not relieve us from the calculating thinking mentioned above. It is concluded that the publication of a humanities monograph in Estonian does not seem to be profitable in any above aspect.

Part Two analyses the possibility of approaching the prospective book as a pure gift, outside of any economic calculation. Although modern continental philosophy is rather fond of seeking a gift, it is not so simple to classify the publication of a book as a pure gift. The main counter-argument is that of the gift economy launched by Marcel Mauss, further developed into a system of general economy by George Bataille, with profitless expenditure as a central concept. And yet it is not forbidden to seek an impossible gift, which on certain conditions may as well be the publication of a book.

Part Three concentrates on the prospective book as a desirable physical object. Such desire justifies the book being called a fetish. A fetishistic desire explains, at least partly, the passion of collecting books, but it also motivates people to write them. The final conclusion reads that as fetishes help add meaning to life there is nothing wrong in worshipping them.