Thursday, December 03, 2009

Apoliteic music

In his new article, "Apoliteic music: Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and 'metapolitical fascism'" (Patterns of Prejudice 43, no. 5, December 2009, pp. 431-457), Anton Shekhovtsov suggests that there are two types of radical right-wing music that are cultural reflections of the two different political strategies that fascism was forced to adopt in the ‘hostile’ conditions of the post-war period.

While White Noise music is explicitly designed to inspire racially or politically motivated violence and is seen as part and parcel of the revolutionary ultra-nationalist subculture, he suggests that ‘metapolitical fascism’ has its own cultural reflection in the domain of sound, namely, apoliteic music. This is a type of music whose ideological message contains obvious or veiled references to the core elements of fascism but is simultaneously detached from any practical attempts to realize these elements through political activity. Apoliteic music neither promotes outright violence nor is publicly related to the activities of radical right-wing political organizations or parties. Nor can it be seen as a means of direct recruitment to any political tendency.

Shekhovtsov’s article focuses on this type of music, and the thesis is tested by examining bands and artists that work in such musical genres as Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial, whose roots lie in cultural revolutionary and national folk traditions.


Anton Shekhovtsov said...

Here's the link -

Anselmo Quemot said...

Mark, good to see this article finally come to print. Some months ago I entered into correspondence with Roger Griffin, and he kindly forwarded me a copy.

For all of its virtues though, I feel the article is primarily a work of political philosophy, which tends to detract from a more social theoretical contextualisation of the artists in question. I've blogged along these lines, drawing particular attention to the "zero sum game" of negotiating intimacy under conditions of increasing individualisation. Ulrich Bech is interesting in this respect, with his conception of "democratic authoritarianism". Hence I drew a comparison to not only Joy Division, but also Throbbing Gristle (whose very name evoked a very pessimistic view of modern romance; the male appendage caricatured as a useless, flailing, piece of meat...and they too, like Joy Division, and later Death In June, drew on the iconography of fascism to varying degrees).

Just a few thoughts.

Anselmo Quemot said...

I could have said a lot more about the intensification of individual experience as a byproduct of modernization (i.e. a growing division of labor in modern societies fostering anomie/nihilism), or as a recurrent problem of modernity (the retreat of content before form owing to a plurality of public spheres in modern societies increasingly organized around more complex forms of communication). My major point here though is that the "politics" appear to be merely a cultural symptom of societal problems. I'd describe the dilemma of living in the interregnum, as referred to by the article in question, as functionally equivalent to what Abel Ferrara describes as the "neoconservative response to postmodernization":

"That is, the society which once found its ultimate frame of reference in the religious ideal of an orderly life devoted to the carrying out of one’s calling is now split into the two opposing camps of the "specialists without spirit," devoted to work only as a means for securing consumption, and the "sensualists without heart," who dedicate their lives to aesthetic cultivation but remain insensitive to all sense of duty or communal purpose. The choice of this vantagepoint reveals its infecundity when the theorists of postmodernity combine it with Weber’s dichotomy of asceticism and mysticism. When these two notions are superimposed over the distinction of specialists and sensualists we obtain, as a result, the gist of the neoconservative interpretation of modernity. Asceticism, which in a broader sense stands for vita activa, for a sense of moral purpose, for taking interest in the external world….for believing in progress, for the desire to grow more in control of our collective destiny, and for the desire to free ourselves from all man made yet unintentional constraints, is seen as losing ground. Mysticism, which is associated with vita contemplativa, with intellectualism without ethical commitment, with immobility and self-inspired stagnation, with withdrawal from the world and therefore with losing control over it, is seen as gaining the favor of the "sensualists without heart" and as threatening to become the dominant outlook" (Ferrara 1993: 23).

Anselmo Quemot said...

Apologies for a couple of typos in my comments. I should have written Ulrich BECK and ALESSANDRO Ferrara. I particularly recommend Ferrara's "Modernity and Authenticity" (1995).


Didrik Søderlind said...

This article is a very good example of what Joshua Buckley has warned against in an essay published on this blog earlier, and has compared to “trying to understand Madonna’s music in terms of Catholic theology, since the singer sometimes wears a crucifix and calls herself “Madonna.”

Mr. Shekhovtsov writes:

"I argue that there exists a particular kind of radical right-wing music that does not promote outright violence, is not related to the activities of political organizations or parties, and is not a means of recruitment to any political tendency."

Mr. Shekhovtsov’s approach means that bands that have nothing to do with Fascist groups, do not propagate Fascism, and do not do Fascist things, can still be called Fascists – for they are “Metapolitical Fascists”. So what, then, is necessary for Mr. Shekhovtsov to level such a serious accusation as being a Fascist, against someone?

On his blog, he classifies Sean Rogan of the band Cult of Youth as a Fascist. This seems to happen on the strength of Mr. Rogan having a tattoo of a “Chaos star” symbol. This symbol is popular with people from a wide selection of backgrounds, from occultists to role-playing-game enthusiasts, but it is also used by a miniscule New Right group (who actively try to appropriate non-Fascist symbols).

That he classifies people as “Fascists” based on such weak evidence does little to make one want to take Mr. Shekhovtsov seriously as a scholar or seeker of truth. It smacks more of the research found in Christian fundamentalist books on Satanism during the “Satanic scare” of the 1980s.

Mad Mullah Hastur said...

I have to agree with Didrik on this one, though Shekhovstov has today given a lengthier reason for classifying the Cult of Youth as fascist. I'm not convinced at the argument, though as I don't know the band in question, I refrain from making any judgment on the band myself.

What I lack is something that makes Laibach a non-fascist band, and the bands which Shekhovstov doesn't like fascist.

Or maybe he believes Laibach is fascist too. In which case he is consistent. Very wrong, but consistent.

Poetryman said...

Well, at least we now know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.