Editorial: music, institutions, and the failure of nations

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Author: Georgia Cowart
Date: Spring 2013
Publisher: University of California Press
Document Type: Editorial
Length: 1,188 words
Lexile Measure: 1530L

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The appearance last year of the book Why Nations Fail: The Ongins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (1) sparked a spirited intellectual debate. Its coauthors, MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson, boldly attributed the success or failure of nations not to geography, physical resources, or cultural patterns, but exclusively to social institutions (mainly political and economic). Widely praised, the book was also critiqued for its single-minded insistence (as a reviewer in The Washington Post put it) on "institutions, institutions, institutions." (2) However one views the argument, the book serves as a reminder of the critical role of institutions in our society As musicologists, we can also note the importance of institutions to the history of music, and the prominent place they have held and continue to hold as objects of musicological and ethnomusicological research.

Social institutions fall into two categories. They may be organizations composed of persons holding certain roles and employing certain social practices; or they may be more fundamental entities, such as language, which are presupposed by or constitutive of other institutions. (3) A number of articles in this issue consider, or grow out of, intersections of music and institutions. Most of these look at or touch upon music within institutions belonging to the first category. The closing Colloquy, a retrospective on the Rousseau tercentenary of 2012, takes a wider lens to explore Rousseau's philosophy of music with an emphasis on his theory of the origins of music and language. Altogether the issue attests to the vibrancy of current inquiry into the effects of institutions and institutional change on music, and also to an increasing willingness of musicologists to engage with the more elusive effects of music upon institutions, and through them the greater society.

In the most direct treatment...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A332790810