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Political Music

Legitimization and Contestation


Edited By Tomasz Bichta and Anna Szwed-Walczak

In the 12 chapters of this book the authors argue for the universal presence of music in public space and social relations. The examples of American, British, Hungarian, Polish and Russian music serve to elucidate two functions of political music, that of legitimizing and contesting political power. Both satirical songs with their ironic commentary on specific events and people as well as protest songs undermining the system corroborate the universal character of the legitimizing and delegitimizing function of music. The book is addressed to readers interested in countercultural movements and politically engaged music, especially to students of political studies, sociology and cultural studies.

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The Legitimizing and Delegitimizing Function of Political Music: Selected Aspects


Wojciech Sokół1

Abstract: Music is at the same time an artistic and a socio-political phenomenon. Music may refer to politics, serve political aims and bring about political results, shaping communal consciousness, regulating attitudes, opinions and behaviours as regards issues crucial for the functioning of the public sphere and the integrity of political systems. Music plays an important role of legitimizing power in various types of political systems (democratic and non-democratic) but it can at the same time function to delegitimize power by the political opposition or discontented groups and individuals. The history of the existence of music in the political sphere since antiquity to the present leaves no doubt about its utilitarian character, including the legitimizing one. Influencing through music often turned out to be more effective than using power, verbal arguments or legal means. Since ancient times to the end of the nineteenth century, royal courts competed with one another in the creation of musical background to court life and political activities. In the twentieth-century totalitarian regimes music became an important way of influencing social consciousness within an extensive propaganda system. Music continues to be a decorative element, adding splendour to and legitimizing contemporary political systems.

Keywords: political music, legitimization, delegitimization, national anthems

Within the frame of legitimizing efforts undertaken by governments, symbols perform a similar function to arguments, actions and procedures, and complement the legitimacy formula of a political system.2 National and state symbols, celebrations and anniversaries are usually elements of...

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