Adam Harper (author of Infinite Music) reflects on Inventing the Future and the folk political in contemporary music.
(still: Holly Herndon)
When, in Inventing the Future, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams critique the collection of tendencies within the contemporary left they call 'folk politics,' they could also be lamenting the aesthetics that now dominates those areas of popular music that were once progressive. Whether it's underground, or 'indie,' or even happens to be in the charts, contemporary popular music routinely 'chooses the familiarities of the past over the unknowns of the future;... habitually chooses the small over the large' and 'value[s] withdrawal or exit rather than building a broad counter-hegemony'. For independent music as in folk politics, 'organisations and communities are to be transparent, rejecting in advance any conceptual mediation, or even modest amounts of complexity' and both 'emphasis[e] the local and the authentic, the temporary and the spontaneous, the autonomous and the particular'. Srnicek and Williams show that these strategies arose and achieved much in the special political circumstances of the mid-twentieth century, and again, as aesthetic strategies in popular music, they arose during the same period in the countercultural atmosphere of jazz, rock, punk and, indeed, folk musics. And for both folk politics and folk-political music, the time has come to invent what happens next.
Today Verso are sending each member of the Labour shadow cabinet a copy of the new book, Inventing the Future. At first glance, a book dealing with the crisis of the left might seem to have little relevance to the modern Labour Party. Yet in an era of extraordinary political transformation, the Labour Party faces a series of important questions about its future and how it goes about addressing the most pressing issues of the 21st Century. Technological unemployment, climate change, crises of political legitimacy and social cohesion: the current moment demands radical, imaginative thinking. Below are three reasons why Labour must engage with the ideas presented in this book: