This article interrogates music’s role in the work of social reproduction by bringing into dialogue two seemingly antithetical approaches to thinking music’s relation to the social. One is historical materialism; the other is work informed by the “practice turn” in music sociology, exemplified by Tia DeNora’s studies of music as a “technology of the self.” By taking seriously the proposition that under certain conditions music may itself function as a technology, and by reframing this proposition along materialist lines, this article aims to shed light on the changing functions music has come to assume in late neoliberalism. In particular, new modalities of digital distribution like streaming, by simultaneously driving down the cost of music and normalizing its therapeutic, prosthetic, and self-regulatory uses, increasingly cast it as a cheap resource that can be harnessed to replenish the cognitive, affective, and/or communicative energies strained by the current crisis of social reproduction.
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Research Article| July 01 2019
Music in the Work of Social Reproduction
Eric Drott is associate professor of music theory at the University of Texas at Austin. He is author of Music and the Elusive Revolution: Political Culture and Cultural Politics in France, 1968–1981 (2011). Current projects include the Oxford Handbook of Protest Music, coedited with Noriko Manabe, and a book on music streaming.
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Cultural Politics (2019) 15 (2): 162–183.
Eric Drott; Music in the Work of Social Reproduction. Cultural Politics 1 July 2019; 15 (2): 162–183. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-7515028
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