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Øivind Varkøy’s article, "On the Hegemony of Technical Rationality and the Importance of Distinctions," from the Philosophy of Music Education Review’s newest issue is now available on JSTOR & Project MUSE. Below, Øivind elaborates on the importance of rethinking the intrinsic value of making music.
Scandinavian cultural researchers claim that means-to-an-end thinking about the concept of culture increasingly gains ground in our contemporary cultural sectors. To any societal problem, be it in education, health, industry, or commercial life, culture is the remedy. Culture comes across as ‘”a strategy for everything.” This general tendency towards a means-to-an-end thinking is an expression of what is often called technical rationality/instrumental reason. This type of rationality hails from the areas of technology and economy and has undoubtedly become an important part of modern society’s foundation of ideals in all aspects of life.
In this article the point of departure is the hegemony of technical rationality when it comes to the justification of music education. This is considered as an example of uniformity, sameness, and homogeneity, or worse, simplicity and naivety—or even worse, a sweet innocence —regarding understanding and thoughts about life, society, and culture in societies proclaimed to be characterized by pluralism, diversity, and heterogeneity.
This discussion is related to my previous and ongoing work from 2012, rethinking the concept of the intrinsic values of musical experience in a meaningful way, as an alternative discourse to hegemonic technical rationality and instrumentalism. With Hannah Arendt, I argue that we very often think and speak about all human activities in terms of labor and work—human activities that are means to other ends—in fact marginalizing and excluding the only kind of human activity that has the end within itself: action. I argue that musical experience is one type of “useless” or “purposeless” activity of action. In this way, it is possible to rethink the concept of intrinsic value of musical experience. I think this line of thinking offers an opportunity to develop a philosophy of music education that transcends instrumentalism and technical rationality.
Øivind Varkøy is Professor in the Music Education and Music Therapy Department at the Norwegian Academy of Music. His research areas include Philosophy of Music Education; Philosophy of Music; and Theory of Science.
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Estelle R. Jorgensen