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MacIntyre, Bourdieu and the practice of jazz

  • Mark Banks (a1)

This article offers a sociological account of the labour of jazz musicians. The first part is concerned with elaborating a theory of jazz work based on Alasdair MacIntyre's notion of social practices. Applying this theory to recent empirical work with British jazz musicians, the article reveals how the virtuous pursuit of specific ‘internal goods’ is judged to be particularly prominent in jazz, suggesting that it might constitute an ethical practice in MacIntyrean terms. While MacIntyre's theory is argued to offer a congenial framework for an analysis of jazz, it is then compared and contrasted with more established readings of jazz practice – based on the work of Pierre Bourdieu – which suggest more objective and instrumental motivations for working in jazz. The article concludes by evaluating the relative merits of each approach.

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P. Berliner 1994. Thinking in Jazz: The Infinite Art of Improvisation (Chicago, University of Chicago Press)

S. Faulkner , A. Leaver , A. Vis , and K. Williams 2008. ‘Art For art's sake, or selling up?’, European Journal of Communication, 23/3, pp. 295317

D. Hesmondhalgh 2010. ‘Normativity and social justice in the analysis of creative labour’, Journal for Cultural Research, 14/3, pp. 231–50

J. Jeffri 2003. ‘Jazz musicians: the cost of the beat’, Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, 33/1, pp. 4051

R. Keat 2000. Cultural Goods and the Limits of the Market (Basingstoke, Palgrave)

C. Kirschbaum 2007. ‘Careers in the right beat: US jazz musician's typical and non-typical career trajectories’, Career Development International, 12/2, pp. 187201

A.G. Marquis 1998. ‘Jazz goes to college: has academic status served the art?’, Popular Music and Society, 22/2, pp. 117124

A. McRobbie 2002. ‘Clubs to companies: notes on the decline of political culture in speeded up creative worlds’, Cultural Studies, 16/4, pp. 516–31

D.L. Pinheiro , and T.J. Dowd 2009. ‘All that jazz: the success of jazz musicians in three metropolitan areas’, Poetics, 37, pp. 490506

R. Stebbins 1966. ‘Class, status and power among jazz and commercial musicians’, Sociological Quarterly, 7/2, pp. 197213

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Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
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