Max Weber as a sociologist of music?
Scrutinising an array of nineteenth-century discourses on the concept of ‘development’ in music, Ana Petrov focuses on Max Weber’s theory of rationalisation in music, which led him to see ‘rationalised’ music as the most ‘developed’, the most ‘complex’ and the ‘best’ music that the whole of civilisation had ever achieved. Weber was convinced that his analysis could prove that the ‘peak’ of the rationalisation process was to be found in the ‘great’ masterpieces of German composers, starting with Johann Sebastian Bach and finishing with Richard Wagner.
Petrov argues that Weber’s allegedly ‘neutral’ concepts were far from ‘innocent’ and ‘ideology-free’, but rather outcomes of his social and intellectual background. She explores the implications of Weber’s concept of rationalisation in music, discussing correlations between the theories of evolution and rationalisation and the paradigm of cultural imperialism, which can be recognised in Weber’s promulgation of the superiority of Western music traditions.
Ana Petrov is a PhD student of sociology and a teaching assistant at the Sociology Department at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. She holds master’s degree in musicology (“Richard Wagner’s Influence on Friedrich Nietzsche’s Understanding of Music”, 2007) and sociology (“The Public Concert as a Social Phenomenon”, 2008). Since 2005 she has participated in several international conferences debating on the aesthetics of music (specifically nineteenth-century German aesthetics) and on current trends in the field of music sociology. At the moment, she is dealing with Max Weber’s sociology of music, which is a part of her PhD thesis considering Weber’s work in both sociological and philosophical contexts.