We’ve just had a short piece published in the Guardian which sets out to explain why so many of us get pissed off when the rich turn up to music festivals, claim to like ‘our’ music, and generally try to colonise ‘our’ culture.
No doubt some of this is good old-fashioned toff-bashing (aw, sorry, Benedict) which feeds into a wider anger about gentrification – the way that ‘raw’ culture gets domesticated, sanitised and sold back to us. But we think there’s also a more far-reaching point here. This colonisation is part of an attempt to wipe out the history of ‘popular modernism’.
It’s hard to remember now, but for much of the second half of the twentieth century working-class (and lower-middle-class) kids directly influenced the future direction of society by pioneering both culture and styles of living. From bebop to Mod, from punk to hip hop, kids weren’t content with inhabiting the world – they wanted to remake it. So when Cameron poses at the Salford Lads Club, he’s not just trying to claim that alternative history as his own: he’s also hoping to erase an entire history and all the alternative futures it embodied.
Why does this matter? Because a different sort of future can only come from below. For all its talk of creativity and innovation, the future that neoliberalism offers is one-dimensional: tomorrow will be the same as today, except with more shiny commodities.
It’s hard to imagine the shape that popular modernism might take in the twenty-first century but we’ve tried to think through some of the problems (and possibilities) in This is Not a Love Song.