Rethinking Rationalisation: Evolutionism and Imperialism in Max Weber’s Discourse on Music

Ana Petrov, Wien: Hollitzer Verlag, 2016, 196 pp., 17,5 x 24,5 cm, English, hardcover

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Max Weber as a sociologist of music?
Scrutinising an array of nineteenth-century discourses on the concept of ‘development’ in music, Ana Petrov focuses on Max Weber’s theory of rationalisation in music, which led him to see ‘rationalised’ music as the most ‘developed’, the most ‘complex’ and the ‘best’ music that the whole of civilisation had ever achieved. Weber was convinced that his analysis could prove that the ‘peak’ of the rationalisation process was to be found in the ‘great’ masterpieces of German composers, starting with Johann Sebastian Bach and finishing with Richard Wagner.
Petrov argues that Weber’s allegedly ‘neutral’ concepts were far from ‘innocent’ and ‘ideology-free’, but rather outcomes of his social and intellectual background. She explores the implications of Weber’s concept of rationalisation in music, discussing correlations between the theories of evolution and rationalisation and the paradigm of cultural imperialism, which can be recognised in Weber’s promulgation of the superiority of Western music traditions.

Short biography Ana Petrov


  • Foreword

Introduction: Max Weber as a Sociologist of Music?

  • The Study of Music and Weber’s Sociology of Culture
    • The Period Before 1910
    • The Period After 1910 and the First Meeting of the Deutsche Soziologische Gesellschaft (German Sociological Society)
  • Components of Weber’s Sociology of Music
    • The Concept of Geist (Spirit) of Modern Art
    • The Concept of the Rationalisation of Art
  • Theoretical Approaches to Weber’s Discourse on Music
    • Researching Weber’s Theory
    • Reading Evolutionism in Weber’s Theory

Evolutionism in Nineteenth-Century Scientific Discourse

  • Herbert Spencer’s Theory of Evolution
    • Evolution as Progress
    • Evolution as Racial Differentiation
  • Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
    • Selection and Evolution
    • Extermination as an Inevitable Consequence of Selection in the Evolutionary Process
  • Spencer’s and Darwin’s Discourse on the Evolution of Music
    • Spencer and Darwin on the Role of Music in Evolution
    • Spencer’s Theory on the Origin of Music: Music as ‘Natural Language of Emotion’
    • Spencer’s Theory on Development from Homogeneous Towards Heterogeneous Species: The Path from ‘Primitive’ to the ‘Civilised’ Music
    • Darwin’s Theory on the Origin of Music: Voice as a Means for Attraction in Sexual Selection
    • Darwin’s Thesis on Music as Emotional Expression

Evolutionism in Nineteenth-Century Discourses on Music

  • The Influence of Evolutionist Theories on Discourses on
    • The Construction of Scholarly Discourses on Music
    • The Incorporation of Evolutionism in Discourses on Music
    • Deconstructing Scholarly Discourses on Music
  • The Concepts of ‘Developed’ and ‘Undeveloped’ Musics
    • The Science of Music as the Investigation of Tone Species’ Evolution: The Case of Adler
    • The Science of Music as a Natural Science: Helmholtz and Riemann
  • The Concepts of Western and Non-Western Musics
    • Implications of the Musicological Discourse on Progress: Constructing the Field of ‘Primitive’ Music
    • Comparative Musicology as an Alternative Discourse on Music (Or a Discourse on Other Musics)

Evolutionism in Weber’s Discourse on Music

  • The Influence of Evolutionist Musicological Discourses on Weber’s Concept of Music Rationalisation
    • Dealing with Acoustics: Dialogue with Helmholtz’s Theory
    • The Inf luence of the Music Theory Discourse: Incorporation and Modifications of Deconstructing Scholarly Discourses on Music
    • Incorporation into the Discourse of the History of Music as a Positivist Science on Written Works of Art
    • Complete Incorporation into the Nineteenth-Century Musicological and Ethnomusicological Discourses: ‘Developed/Undeveloped’ and ‘Western/Non-Western’ Dichotomies
  • Rationalisation as an Imperialistic Evolutionist Model of Constructing Music History
    • The First Evolutionist Symptom: ‘Development’ of the Intervals from the ‘Simpler’ Forms to the Increasingly ‘Complex’ and Continuous ‘Progress’ of Tonal Species
    • The Second Evolutionist Symptom: Struggle and Selection in the Field of Professional Music
    • Rationalisation as Progress
    • Development, Progress, Evolution, Rationalisation
    • Concept of Style as the Final Answer in the Problematisation of Progress in Weber’s Theory of Rationalisation of Music

Conclusion: Implications of Weber’s Discourse on Rationalisation of Music

  • Decolonising Weber: Mapping Weber’s Theory in the Debate on Imperialism
  • Foundations for Problematisation of Imperialistic Discourse on Music Evolution: Musicological Readings of Weber

Curriculum Vitae

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