Why Today's Writers Are So Gutless

Social topics like politics and economics have been sectioned off from society and are now treated as expert fields beyond the scope of mere mortals, says economics writer Aditya Chakrabortty. 

What's the Latest Development?


Who are the towering novelist-social critics of our time? If you have trouble coming up with names, you are not alone. Beyond perhaps Dave Eggars, and his novels on Sudanese refugees and post-Katrina New Orleans, there are remarkably few novelists or poets who can sustain a work of fiction while drawing attention to the day's political and economic concerns, says Aditya Chakrabortty, lead economist at the Guardian. According to Chakrabortty, modernist writers like Orwell, Spender, Auden and Pound set the standard for Western political engagement. 

What's the Big Idea?

At a time when environmental and economic problems threaten the world at large, we need the artist more than ever to weigh in as an expert in all disciplines and in none. "But literature too has been professionalized, so that authors now go from their creative-writing MAs to their novels to their relentless promotional work. ... In Britain or America or India today, our social boundaries are defined by the market and ever more diffident politicians." Is Chakrabortty's vision of the engaged writer simply nostalgic or is artistic industry now ruled by the masters it once critiqued? 

Photo credit: shutterstock.com


Big Think Edge
  • The meaning of the word 'confidence' seems obvious. But it's not the same as self-esteem.
  • Confidence isn't just a feeling on your inside. It comes from taking action in the world.
  • Join Big Think Edge today and learn how to achieve more confidence when and where it really matters.
Big Think Edge
  • Economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett breaks down what qualities will inspire others to believe in you.
  • Here's how 300 leaders and 4,000 mid-level managers described someone with executive presence.
  • Get more deep insights like these to power your career forward. Join Big Think Edge.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

In U.S. first, drug company faces criminal charges for distributing opioids

It marks a major shift in the government's battle against the opioid crisis.

George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The nation's sixth-largest drug distributor is facing criminal charges related to failing to report suspicious drug orders, among other things.
  • It marks the first time a drug company has faced criminal charges for distributing opioids.
  • Since 1997, nearly 222,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids, partly thanks to unethical doctors who abuse the system.
Keep reading Show less