Forces of Chaos and Anarchy: Rock Music, the New Left and Social Movements, 1964 to 1972
Cummings, Jordan Louis
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This dissertation engages an unresolved debate on the rock aesthetic in New Left Review, between Perry Anderson and David Fernbach while pointing toward a new dialectical social theory with which to analyze cultural form in general and music in particular. The debate was in the first instance methodological, formal/technical vs. lyrical contextual analysis. Within this methodological debate we see inscribed the misunderstanding the sixties New Left had of the sixties counterculture, and thus the conditions of possibility for a missed encounter. Rock music was neither a direct instantiation of the times, as Anderson implies, nor was it an entirely new form that must be schematized sui generis with a new set of axioms, as suggested by Fernbach. Indeed, it was both and then some. In engaging this debate, I use canonical figures of the era as my primary case studies as well as what I call my excursions miniature analyses that capture the broader point I am making in my cognitive mapping of the cultural production of the long sixties. From this projects standpoint, it was the Left that missed an encounter with the counterculture, not the counterculture that missed an encounter with the Left. To continue this engagement, I have deployed what I have called a theory of the missed encounter. I engage what could have taken place, that is to say, if the implicit metaphysical and practical connection between rock music culture and the Left had been consummated, by examining why this could not have taken place, why there was a missed encounter. As against the more commonly theorized Popular Front and Punk eras which I stipulate as consummated encounters, the sixties, aesthetically and politically did not coalesce in the same sense. The Missed Encounter, for me, is a heuristic, a point-of-departure. I presume, thus, with my own analysis that once one goes beyond mythology, a missed encounter is readily apparent. The purpose of my rethinking of the rock music canon is not positivist proof of a missed encounter, rather it is to formulate the sixties question through the premises of its existence.