By now, the main contours of the recent events in Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, are well-known. On August 25, an insurgent group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) (previously Harakah al-Yaqin) attacked police posts in northern Rakhine, eliciting a broad counterinsurgency response from the Myanmar military that has displaced over 400,000 Rohingya people into Bangladesh. As in previous cycles of violence, the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, has reportedly targeted civilians in its “clearance operations,” leading to allegations of killings, rape, and the burning of villages. The UN’s human rights body has referred to this latest outbreak of violence as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
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 Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (2009), Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left (2003), Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (2000), and The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1991). In this interview with Zoltán Glück for FocaalBlog, Professor Buck-Morss talks about her formative years of political radicalization, the difficulties of teaching the radical tradition, and the political significance of crowds.
In contemplating music and capitalism, we might imagine alternative framings to “art versus commerce.” Art versus commerce understands music as perpetually compromised between musicians’ desire to produce l’art pour l’art in a context in which they must be commodity producers. In this regard, the challenge facing musicians is to register discourses of truth, authenticity, and subjectivity within the structure of commodity production (Frith and Horne 1987). Arguably, the primary theoretical reference for such analysis is presented by Adorno and Horkheimer’s ( 1997) culture industry thesis, which posits a negative dialectic between orders of culture and industrial production. By focusing on the possibility of artistic production autonomy, a shift seems to take place wherein the spirit or aesthetic possibility claimed by the artist becomes emphasized and the music is analyzed with such spirit in mind.
David Harvey (2014) cites alienation as a catalytic concept fundamental to animating political action in order to displace and dispossess the many-headed hydra of late global capitalism. However, despite its position as a basic contradiction of capitalism, there is still only passing consideration in even Marxist music scholarship of the topic of alienation, even though music and capitalism in general is receiving increasing attention.