Date of Award


Document type


Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Richard D. Wolff

Second Advisor

Mwangi wa Githinji

Third Advisor

Agustin Lao-Montes

Subject Categories

Economics | Music



As an activity that produces wealth, musical production and its effects have largely been neglected by the economics profession. This dissertation seeks contribute to a small but growing literature on the subject by analyzing musical production through a particular class analytical lens of political economy.

A first problem that has encountered many within political economy, specifically within its radical variant of Marxism, is how to understand music in relation to the social totality. In the first essay of this work I provide a critical review of the literature that approaches music through the "base-superstructure metaphor", a tool of analysis well known within the Marxian theoretical tradition. In it I show how assigning elements to either one or the other of these spheres and understanding the forces of production in terms of its technical dimension (i.e. technology) limits the analytical possibilities provided by Marx's original insights.

In the second part of this essay I review the ways the concept of class has been ued to analyze topics related to music within the Marxian tradition. I highlight how the essentialist moments of those particular class concepts lead to analyzes that obscure and sometimes contradict one of the main purposes Marx's original intent: to show the various guises that exploitation might take in a capitalist society.

In the second essay of the dissertation I theorize musical production with the aid of a class qua surplus analysis that highlights the process of the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus labor in relation to the production and dissemination of meaning associated with music as a cultural process. I identify various musical scenes and show the dialectic of aesthetics and musical labor.

In the third and final essay, I compare and contrast two discourses of theft: those of exploitation and of piracy. I focus my attention on the music recording industry and show how the adoption of a discourse of exploitation by musicians that are not exploited and their support in anti-piracy campaigns hamper, marginalize, and contribute to eliminating none-exploitative class structures. This result is important to the literature that explores how intellectual property poses constraints to economic growth and development in the so-called Third world where most of the pirate production takes place.