Love's unlimited orchestra: overcoming left melancholy via dubstep and microhouse

Winter 2011

Many post-war cultural commentators have perceived a lack of impetus to the left-wing project, especially in the wake of the influential but ultimately unsuccessful worldwide protests of 1968. For some, such as Wendy Brown, this aimlessness is a result of a traditionalist left-wing’s failure to acknowledge cultural and theoretical developments over the same period that call into question its fundamental presuppositions, such as economic determinism and teleological progress. Instead, she argues, the traditionalist left has succumbed to melancholia, refusing to abandon its ideals while blaming their disappearance on those representative of these newer developments, often referred to as the ‘cultural’ left. Yet, as recent developments in electronic dance music culture suggest, the ideals more identifiable with a poststructuralist leftism may, too, have their melancholic object in the heterotopic principles associated with rave culture. The work of two contemporary electronic musicians, Burial and Farben, working respectively in the genres of dubstep and microhouse, provocatively illustrates these developments. By examining their work alongside its online reception as well as more historical debates over left-wing melancholy, we can both understand the insights they offer into the present political landscape and begin to identify the outline of a more productive relationship to political loss.

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NF 75 Love, Loss and Revolution