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FocaalBlog is associated with Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. It aims to accelerate and intensify anthropological conversations beyond what a regular academic journal can do, and to make them more widely, globally, and swiftly available.

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Conversations on the Left

  • David Bozzini: Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics – part 2

    David Bozzini is a research fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where he is researching on Eritrean deserters movements and on the resistance to digital surveillance. He co-edits Tsantsa, the journal of the Swiss Ethnological Society. Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist and holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University in… more...

  • David Bozzini: Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics – part 1

    David Bozzini is a research fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where he is researching on Eritrean deserters movements and on the resistance to digital surveillance. He co-edits Tsantsa, the journal of the Swiss Ethnological Society. Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist and holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University in… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Of politics and crowds: A conversation with Susan Buck-Morss

    This interview with Susan Buck-Morss took place at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center on May 12 2015. Buck-Morss is Distinguished Professor of Political Philosophy at the Graduate Center and has been a towering figure in continental theory since her publication of The Origin of Negative Dialectics in 1977. Her books include… more...

  • Ida Susser: From the underground resistance under Franco to Podemos, with Vicente Navarro

    Vicente Navarro is a leading analyst of the history and origins of the financial crisis in Spain (and Europe in general) and an economic adviser to Podemos. His book There Are Alternatives (Hay Alternativas: Propuestas para Crear Empleo y Bienestar Social en España), written with economists Juan Torres and Alberto Garzón, became an inspiration to… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Archive of a Radical Geographer: Neil Smith’s Papers—An Interview with Don Mitchell

    In 2014, Don Mitchell was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). His primary project during this time was to sort through the large collection of papers, files, clippings, and correspondences left behind by Neil Smith after his untimely death in… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Focaal Interview with David Harvey – Part 2

    The Conversations on the Left project by Focaal opens its series with an interview with David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center. David Harvey’s works have had a profound impact on the direction of leftist social science over the past four decades. A few months before this interview, in May 2013, an impressive… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Focaal Interview with David Harvey – Part 1

    The Conversations on the Left project by Focaal opens its series with an interview with David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center. David Harvey’s works have had a profound impact on the direction of leftist social science over the past four decades. A few months before this interview, in… more...

Features

Music and Capitalism

Editors: Anna Morcom & Patrick Neveling

Capitalism originated first in the city-states of Renaissance Italy and grew to become a world system with trade, industrialization, and colonialism (Braudel 1982). Thus, capitalism encompasses core centuries of the development of Western classical music and the transformation of classical and folk musics across the world under colonialism and modernity. However, research on music and its relationship to capitalism remains limited and focuses more on popular music and cultural industries. This is due to deeply rooted notions about “high” and “low” arts and “art” versus “commercial” music. The 1938 searing indictment of mass culture as an instrument of capitalist oppression by the musicologist, composer, and leading Frankfurt theorist Theodor Adorno also carries a strong responsibility (indeed, it was Adorno who coined the term “cultural industries,” giving it a strongly pejorative meaning).

More recently, there has been an intense academic focus on neoliberalism, including in music research. The neoliberal era has seen crisis in the music industries, as digital technology and the Internet have made recorded music something overwhelmingly to share and give rather than buy, configuring music and capital into new relationships. This brings a new opportunity to mobilize the immense range and richness of music research toward a greater consideration of “money, power and the origin of our times” (to quote the subtitle of Arrighi’s 1994 book, The long twentieth century). This can bring us to a much firmer grasp of capitalism as a historical force that has shaped music in all its social and aesthetic dimensions. With the immaterial, affective, and somatic nature of music making and its embeddedness in sociality and social exchange, such research has much to offer the study of capitalism and economics more generally.

This feature on music and capitalism arises and includes papers from a one-day conference held in London in October 2014 entitled “Music and capitalism in historical and cross-cultural perspective” that aimed to tackle such an (admittedly ambitious) agenda. Given the immensity of capitalism’s spheres of influence and transformation, the conference also sought a range of interdisciplinary speakers. Thus, the essays in this feature are by scholars from (in alphabetical order): Anthropology; Ethnomusicology; History and Literature; Marketing; Media and Communications; Musicology; and Religious Studies. As these essays show, capital has been and remains a form of overarching power in music making across the world. It may be something people seek to consciously or unconsciously mobilize, or to resist, or just to coexist or work with in more or less comfortable ways. As with all forms of power, questions are at the fore concerning who benefits from capitalism and how it affects human life in terms of belonging or alienation, prosperity or exploitation, and energy and creativity. In all cases, the essays show how capitalism has been and remains a dynamic force of change on musical styles and the forms of human sociability they stem from and create.


References
Adorno, Theodor W. [1938] 1978. On the fetish-character in music and the regression of listening. In Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt, eds., The essential Frankfurt School reader, pp. 270–299. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Arrighi, Giovanni. [1994] 2010. The long twentieth century: Money, power and the origins of our times. London and New York: Verso.

Braudel, Fernand. 1982. The wheels of commerce. Civilization and capitalism, 15th–18th Century, Vol. 2. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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