Institutional Economics and the Formation of Preferences

Institutional Economics and the Formation of Preferences

The Advent of Pop Music

New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series

Wilfred Dolfsma

The formation of preferences is an elusive subject that many social scientists, and especially economists, have tended to avoid. In this original new book, Wilfred Dolfsma combines institutional economics with insights from the other social sciences to analyse the way in which preferences are formed in a social context.

Chapter 2: How Not to Explain the Advent of Pop Music

Wilfred Dolfsma

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics, institutional economics


When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the State always change with them (Plato, The Republic, Book IV) What can explain the reactions to Blackboard Jungle, the movie that appeared in 1956 and featured Bill Haley’s song ‘Rock Around the Clock’? Why were young people attracted to it and older people shocked by it, and why did Elvis Presley make such an impression? An objective and clear-minded look at the lyrics of Presley’s songs, for instance, does not seem to suggest deep thoughts or emotions of the kind that would merit the hysteria the world witnessed then. What then explains the antagonism between people who liked Elvis and those who enjoyed music by Cliff Richard (or, just a little later, between fans of the Beatles versus the Rolling Stones)? Answers to these questions interest economists too, since the consequences are economic and not just cultural or social. Within a period of two years after 1955, for instance, the music scene changed dramatically (Peterson 1990, p. 97). Pop music plays an important role in the economic sphere nowadays. The economic significance of music reaches beyond the size of the market for recordables. Music is important in promoting other entertainment goods, which explains why diversified firms are the rule in the entertainment business. Pop music is used extensively in places or fields that seem at first sight not directly related to it, for instance, to promote sales in supermarkets. These are just a few ways in which the advent of...

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