Kory wrote: ↑
20 Sep 2017, 12:48pm
Very thought-provoking. I'll be thinking on this for a while. I'm still a little fuzzy, though, on how less choice/more restrictions when it comes to art is better for society or threatening to the system.
Indeed, it runs entirely counter to what we think of as beneficial. Which is somewhat the point. To use a parallel argument, environmentalism argues that we have to produce and consume less selfishly, oftentimes just plain less, for the greater benefit.
In your reference to pre-'70s 20th century, we have pretty powerful protest music in the '60s, and the advent of rock n' roll in the '50s, but those were already splinterings themselves, from the crooners, country & western, jazz, and blues that already existed. And rock, with its frivolous lyrics, seems an unlikely candidate for galvanizing any kind of resistance other than the fact that adults hated it. Earlier in the century, you've got Shostakovich's problems with the Stalinist government and Stravinsky causing riots, along with Dada and Surrealism, but I don't get the sense that even earlier, in the 19th century, that Mendelssohn, Shumann, Brahms, etc. were all that good at bringing people together (you could make an argument that Wagner brought a LOT of people together—but not quite in the right direction).
Here's a key distinction—rock was a mass marketed form from the start that had a defined audience, youth. Aesthetically, one can trace rock n roll to previous forms, but in terms of its place within consumer capitalism and its audience, it was unique. And within that was political possibility. Part of that was also due to an abnormally large group of youth (Boomers) who came of age in comfort yet also rebelled against their parents—unique conditions that might make all my hoo-ha about neoliberalism and subgenres irrelevant.
Even an art form that we think of as almost universally loved, like impressionism, caused many divisions at the time. Are you mostly saying that it's just worse than it could have been because of capitalism? That the music of the '60s had the potential to be even stronger, but after being co-opted by market lost its teeth and splintered too much? And is it that '50s rock itself didn't specifically have the power to cause any kind of resistance, but the coming together of the people around it, forming a community of different races, classes, etc. is the real powerful part? I just don't get the sense (admittedly with my limited knowledge of social history), that there was much harmony to begin with.
Yes, I'm arguing for potentials that there were hints of throughout the 60s, tho, yes, maybe the whole thing was doomed from the start. But there was a sincere belief in a youth culture that could be mobilized; we don't even bother to think that such a possibility could exist anymore. My larger argument in all this is partly that the commercial success of rock encouraged all that diversity, to find new markets, which compromised any hope of a unity politically and socially. But it's also that the left didn't fight against this at all. The older left hated rock anyway as primitive and commercial, contrary to high art's dreams. The younger ones, the New Left, embraced the politics of personal liberation, treating society/the group as repressive, and emphasized politics that encouraged what makes us distinct and rejected older group politics like racism and sexism. Which just so happens to slot in well with neoliberalism's worship of the market. Something for everyone and everyone should have something. We can and should blame capitalism; but we should also blame the left for regarding as a virtue something which seeks to divide us. Good results in individual cases, whether we're talking about music or, say, non-CIS rights, but at the greater cost of normalizing the market as the arbiter of our lives.