How do we understand the politics of culture? That question is at the heart of Matthew Karush's “The Politics of Tango,” a generous response to—and incisive critique of—my 2015 book, Noise Uprising: The Audiopolitics of a World Musical Revolution. Though he finds the book's historical account “revelatory,” he argues that “the centerpiece of Noise Uprising is its political argument” and concludes that “its analysis of the political impact of the ‘phonograph musics’ of the late 1920s is ultimately unconvincing.”

He argues that my account depends on an “unacknowledged structural determinism” that renders politics “inevitable” and “automatic”: “rather than explain this political effect, he [Denning] appears to assume its inevitability”;...

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