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Music, Music Making and Neoliberalism

Posted: February 13th, 2013 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Call for Papers: Special Issue of Culture, Theory and Critique

 Music, Music Making and Neoliberalism

Theorizing the relationship between music and capitalist processes has been an ongoing concern for scholars in a number of disciplines.  Marx’s passing characterization of music as a form of unproductive labor, at worst a form of labor in a process of transition, would set the stage for much theorizing regarding the fate of music and music making under capitalism.  Much of the music-related scholarship dealing with capitalism has been primarily interested in the production, consumption and circulation of various musical texts (pieces of music, musical genres, specific artists or bands, and so on).  Critics have also addressed the broader implications of this dynamic to the act of music making, in one way or another, suggesting that music’s ability to critique, resist or cope with capitalism was predicated in its ability to remain at least partially independent from processes of mass production and consumption. Such approaches emphasize the notion that music’s engagement with capitalism begins at the moment when these texts and practices enter the marketplace, along the way complicating but not necessarily questioning whether music remains a form of unproductive labor, particularly in the context of late capitalism.

From the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, as capitalism has adapted into a more fragmented, resilient and contradictory system than it was first envisioned, changes in patterns of circulation and exchange associated with flexible accumulation have produced a number of incongruous dynamics that pose challenges for these models.  For example, the emergence of an increasing diversity of small independent, musical markets devoted to the consumption of niche musical styles brings into question the notions of standardization and interchangeability associated with commodity fetishism.  Yet, even though these new markets may point to a possible long-term restructuring of a transnational music industry dominated by a handful of large stake holders, and despite the role that new media technologies have had in democratizing access for producers and consumers in these markets, these changes are often accompanied by the ongoing economic and social marginalization of the communities on whose music those markets are based.  Creativity, a concept formerly associated with artistic activity that resists or defies the purported homogenizing tendencies of commodification, is increasingly becoming a buzzword designed to quantify and valuate the soft skills of musicians and other artists as members of an emerging new class producers.  Similarly, concepts like originality, hybridity, counterculture, gender, race or cultural difference, are often mapped onto narratives of freedom, possibility, and innovation associated with globalization and the spread of free market capitalism, redefining the potential transgressive character of music and the agency of those who engage with it in terms of their ability to become effective agents of economic development.

Scholarship on neoliberalism suggests that, beyond an intensification of capitalist processes, free market logics do not erase but rather fragment, repurpose and redeploy prior social and economic (and this special issue would also suggest aesthetic) understandings of the world, in the process producing a deep restructuring of social relationships.  Messianic narratives regarding the possibility to harness the power of free market capitalism for the betterment of society encourage individuals and communities to reinvent themselves as effective agents of economic development, often glossing over enduring, if not widening disparities, that benefit those who are better socially and economically positioned.  In this environment, people are devising strategies with which to contest neoliberalism’s equation of social, cultural or individual well-being with economic viability, in many cases resorting to different forms of performance to negotiate the permeation of neoliberals into every aspect of everyday life.

Music provides one useful vantage point from which to map and theorize these processes.   As a socio-cultural activity that draws on different forms of knowledge and generates both tangible and intangible forms of expression, music making constitutes an important locus for the mediation of the type of fragmented and contradictory dynamics that predominate under neoliberalism.  To this end, this special issue of Culture, Theory and Critique will feature articles that shift the mode of inquiry associated with the study of music and capitalism by refocusing attention on music as a social process rather than on the various texts that it generates.  As neoliberalism permeates an expressive domain previously thought to have been at least partially shielded from processes of production and consumption, this issue will address the following questions.  What has been the impact of neoliberal economic reforms on different music-making environments?  How do those engaged in music making, as individuals increasingly regarded as effective agents of economic development, able to negotiate the contradictions associated with neoliberalism?  How do neoliberal logics—for instance, those associated with branding, flexibility, self-management, creativity entrepreneurship, and so on—redefine the ways in which individuals conceive of music making as both a social and aesthetic activity?  How can an in-depth analysis of these processes contribute to a further understanding of late capitalism that moves beyond those centered on political economy, consumption, and the centrality of commodity fetishism?

Culture, Theory and Critique is a refereed, interdisciplinary journal for the transformation and development of critical theories in the humanities and social sciences. It aims to critique and reconstruct theories by interfacing them with one another and by relocating them in new sites and conjunctures. Culture, Theory and Critique’s approach to theoretical refinement and innovation is one of interaction and hybridization via recontextualization and transculturation.


Completed essays need to be submitted before May 3, 2013 for full consideration for this special issue. The length of final essays should not exceed 7,000 words including notes and please follow the citation style found at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?journalCode=rctc20&page=instructions.

All submissions should be made online at the Culture, Theory and Critique ScholarOne Manuscripts site: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/rctc. New users should first create an account. Once logged on to the site, submissions should be made via the Author Centre. Online user guides and access to a helpdesk are available on this website. In the space provided, indicate that your essay should be considered for the special issue on Music and Neoliberalism.

Manuscripts may be submitted in any standard format, including Word, PostScript and PDF. These files will be automatically converted into a PDF file for the review process. LaTeX files should be converted to PDF prior to submission because ScholarOne Manuscripts is not able to convert LaTeX files into PDFs directly.

Authors who are unable to submit their paper via the ScholarOne site may send an inquiry to [email protected]. Queries about the special issue should be sent to Javier León ([email protected]).

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