Playing for Change

Music Festivals as Community Learning and Development

by Michael B. MacDonald (Author)
©2016 Textbook XXVII, 163 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 475


Playing for Change – performing for money and for social justice – introduces a critical pedagogy of arts-based community learning and development (A-CLD), a new discipline wherein artists learn to become educators, social workers, and community economic development agents. Challenging the assumption that acculturation into a ruling ideology of state development is necessary, this book presents a version of CLD that locates development in the production of subjectivities. The author argues that A-CLD is as concerned with the autonomous collective and the individual as it is with establishing community infrastructure. As a result, a radical new theory is proposed to explain aesthetics within arts movements, beginning not by normalizing music cultures within global capitalism, but by identifying the creation of experimental assemblages as locations of cultural resistance. This book offers a new vocabulary of cultural production to provide a critical language for a theory of anti-capitalist subjectivity and for a new type of cultural worker involved with A-CLD. Drawing from a four-year study of thirteen music festivals, Playing for Change forwards A-CLD as a locally situated, joyful, and creative resistance to the globalizing forces of neoliberalism.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Arts-Based Community Learning and Development as Radical Love
  • Chapter 2. Refolkus: Arts-Based Community Learning and Development
  • Chapter 3. Foucauldian Genealogy of Folk as the People and Aesthetic Multitude
  • Chapter 4. A-CLD: Production of Subjectivities in the Festival-Machine
  • Chapter 5. A-CLD: Production of Subjectivities in the Carnival-Machine
  • Chapter 6. Critical Pedagogy of Aesthetic Systems
  • Conclusions
  • Video Recorded Interviews
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

← vi | vii →


The Rise of Predatory Anthropocene

“Predatory anthropocene” began a world war in the 1950s. There are no front lines, and parades will not make a difference. We are not fighting one particular thing, or even a group of people. It is a vast machine eating the Earth. It is not a thing separate from us. Predatory anthropocene is a collective subjectivity excreted during the expansions of global capitalism. It is, or rather, we are consuming the resources of the Earth, creating massive impacts on Earth systems, fueling and being fueled by fears and desires. Predatory anthropocene is creating misery all over the world. We see it every day in news footage of war, disease, hunger, and poverty. Too many of us see these things while sitting safely at home: wars against youth, against women, against indigenous people, against people of color, against the environment, against our hope for solidarity, and against collective imaginaries for a better future. Many experience the impact of these wars directly; many more are experiencing decreased quality of life, social cohesion, access to affordable child care and education, and income security, along with increased debt, anxiety about society, and concern about the future of our species. And while we know what is at stake, most of us have little idea what to do about it, how to play a role, how to take a ← vii | viii → stand against this thing. The thing must first be named, and I call it predatory anthropocene. It is a complex system that requires a complex response.

A response to predatory anthropocene is an expanded community learning and development initiative I call arts-based community learning and development (A-CLD). Community learning and development emerged in 1970s Scotland and was based on a long history of youth, adult, and community education. This complex background is constituted by a number of threads that Lynn Tett (2010) usefully termed “respectable” or “radical” education. Respectable education was organized by Christian churches that connected self-improvement with spiritual uplift (Tett 2010, 3) or bourgeois secular programs based on “benevolent paternalism” (Tett 2010, 6; Donnachie, 2003). The mostly Marxist labor movement spearheaded radical adult and community education.

In the 1970s, organized against this background, the Alexander Committee was further informed by a developing Scottish nationalistic movement. The committee’s report suggested that youth, adult, and community education be brought together to inspire local democracy by “encouraging devolution, accountability and participation at the local level” (Martin 1996, 132, cited in Tett 2010, 18). Bringing youth, adult, and community education and development together created a new profession of culture workers who filled positions in many different governmental and non-governmental positions, although the term “community learning and development” was not adopted until 2004. The incorporation of CLD into the government suggests that culture workers are active in aligning youth, adult, and community education with government mandates, but Tett (2010) noted the following:

There is also a strong, but numerically small, movement amongst practitioners who operate under the radical model and who are mainly located in the voluntary sector where there is often more scope for negotiating the agenda with communities. From this perspective the community educator is an agent of social change, who does not separate the process of learning from the intentions of teaching. (30)

The creation of CLD brought together youth, adult, and community learning; when blended with development, this brings social work and education in contact with community, social, and cultural development. The Scottish model of CLD has been successful and has continued since the mid-1970s, becoming enshrined in university training programs, government, and non-profit sectors. There is some concern, however, that the transformation of global capitalism that was occurring at the same time, which created a ← viii | ix → continuing downturn in the economy and privatization of social training, has negatively impacted the profession. Further, I am concerned that introducing CLD into the North American context today requires a more thorough analysis of the relations among global capital, government, and development than has currently been attempted. But more to the point of this book, there has been an alternative model of CLD developed here in the creative sector, a model that I call arts-based community learning and development (A-CLD).

In this book I explore what happened in Canada during the 1970s, with particular attention on the arts. I outline what I see as an alternative form of CLD, A-CLD, as it emerged as a critical community educational model within music festivals. A-CLD emerged autonomously from government and as a response to the development of what I call predatory anthropocene. Using historic and ethnographic analysis, I begin to chart the emergence of A-CLD and sketch a philosophical terrain rarely explored in CLD literature. My main area of interest is the capture of newly developing processes of capitalist production as they are related to the production of subjectivity. I argue that A-CLD is as concerned with the production of autonomous collective and individual subjectivities as it is with establishing community infrastructure. The consequence of this position is twofold. On the one hand, this book can be read as a critique of CLD literature. I use critique in the sense of critical inquiry and not dismissal. I intend to challenge the taken-for-granted assumption that acculturation into a ruling ideology of state development (nationalism) is necessary for successful CLD. Second, drawing on Félix Guattari’s complex semiotics, I present a version of CLD that locates development in the production of collective and individual subjectivities. This model of development goes well beyond the production of community and economic infrastructure, centering transformation within subjectivity. CLD needs to get complexified because our challenge is not just economic development, nor even social justice, but perhaps our very survival.

Predatory anthropocene is complex crises. It is a crisis of the environment, the economy, human organization, and the production of subjectivity. The source of predatory anthropocene’s power is the radical revolution in the production of subjectivity. It has captured pre-personal forces that operate beyond language and discourse, beyond

knowledge, information, or culture since it affects the nucleus of non-discursivity, non-knowledge, and non-acculturation lying at the heart of subjectivity. Subjective mutation is fundamentally an existential affirmation and apprehension of the self, others, and the world. And it is on the basis of this non-discursive, existential, and ← ix | x → affective crystallization that new languages, new discourses, new knowledges, and a new politics can proliferate. (Lazzarato 2014, 16)


XXVII, 163
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (August)
Artist educator Arts-based community learning Festival Carnival Arts movement
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XXVII, 163 pp.

Biographical notes

Michael B. MacDonald (Author)

Michael B. MacDonald (PhD, University of Alberta), is Assistant Professor of Popular Music at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. An ethnomusicologist and ethnographic filmmaker, he teaches courses in ethnomusicology and cultural studies. Michael publishes widely on topics in the anthropology of music learning with special attention to critical youth studies and the critical pedagogy of music; his films explore themes of cultural sustainability.


Title: Playing for Change
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194 pages