Abstract

This article builds from press accounts of Bruce Springsteen's South by Southwest keynote address, taken by many to be a renewed call to arms of the classic mantras of the rock ethos in the age of a declining recording industry. In tracing the ways the speech circulated I argue that its discourse was rearticulated toward quite different (and concerning) ends. Throughout, I aim to show the apparatuses of power that sustains the rock liberation fantasy. I read the coverage of Springsteen's address as a therapeutic discourse meant to soothe the anxiety over the closure of agency in the age of neoliberalism. The article offers this case study as an example of the way that rock, in general is redirected away from rebellion and productive agency and toward neoliberal prescriptions of self-control and discipline. The article then, addresses an anxiety over the collapse of freedom and as such works to offer broad reflections on the nature of radical agency in our increasingly neoliberal present.

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