Is raving just mindless consumerism?

Julian Schaap, Michaël Berghman and Femke Vandenberg in NRC

Cultural sociologists Julian Schaap, Michaël Berghman (ESHCC) and Femke Vandenberg (University of Groningen, formerly ESHCC) argue in NRC that electronic dance music brings people together, can give meaning and bestow a perpetuated identity. In doing so, they respond to an earlier opinion piece that portrayed visitors to dance festivals (like ADE) as manipulated meek sheep.

In brief, Jelle Honing, a trainee at the European Commission, argued in NRC on 18 October that dance festival goers are simply following hedonistic pleasure instead of engaging with important societal issues. According to Honing, electronic dance music (especially techno) is a standardised cultural good to keep society passive – in the spirit of the classic theories of Theodor Adorno. In other words, people who enjoy raves are supposedly ‘pseudo-individuals’ who are consciously blinding themselves from serious issues in society.

Unfounded analysis

Julian, Michael and Femke argue that this analysis is unfounded. Research finds that, quite the opposite, electronic dance music and associated festivals do not lead people to an illusory existence. In fact, scientists who have actually conducted research into the perception of this music show a very different picture.

On the contrary, people shape the meanings they take from music and raving themselves, not necessarily the other way around. People find themselves, each other, and even progressive ideologies in raving and nightlife. Instead of manipulating our need for distraction, connection and euphoria, the experience of this music actually creates collective ecstasy, losing the 'self' in the group and even has positive physical effects.

Plato and the Frankfurter Schule

Honing draws a parallel with Plato's allegory of the cave, in which the cave is a 'ravecave' where people look at a make-believe reality and get out blinded. But they do so equally well with renewed sense of meaning, new relationships, and a perpetuated identity.

The three cultural sociologists provide several counterarguments to Honings opinion piece, in which he invokes Frankfurter Schule philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno.

Be careful with Plato's cave

On 24 October, a letter to the editor (Tristan Staupe) appeared in NRC questioning Honings characterisation of the allegory of Plato's cave.


Compare @count study programme

  • @title

    • Duration: @duration
Compare study programmes