The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #157878 Message #4032203
Posted By: Brian Peters
04-Feb-20 - 11:04 AM
Thread Name: Dave Harker, Fakesong
Subject: RE: Dave Harker, Fakesong
OMG, this thread is moving so fast. I look forward to hearing more about Motherwell, but I'm afraid I'm still stuck on Sharp.
"So 'social Darwinism' is not really relevant to Sharp setting out his approach. However, I think Darwinism on its own is...
I am not sure how much it matters that he was wrong so long as when reading him we understand that he thought that way."
That is bang on. Sharp described three principles of 'Continuity', 'Variation' and 'Selection' in folk song, and the way in which the last of those was said to operate was clearly Darwinian. The selection idea is pretty weak, though, excedt in the sense that a particular song might have proved popular or been discarded; at the level of the song melody I don’t see much evidence of progression towards a more advanced or successful form, more a series of individual variations and in some cases descent into incoherence. As the post says, Sharp was indeed wrong on many things, but that doesn’t mean he should be trashed or misrepresented.
As for ‘Social Darwinism’, while it may well have contributed to the racial theories of the day, Sharp was certainly not a believer in Herbert Spencer’s ideas about laissez-faire capitalism, which he abhorred. He was a socialist, a member of the Fabian Society for the entirety of his song collecting days, and moved from support for the Liberal Party to Labour, despite a general distrust of party politics. He was a follower of William Morris, although more in sympathy with Morris’s dislike of modernity and industrialization than with his revolutionary ideas. Sharp was a 'moderate', and as such attracted the scorn of Harker - what James Porter has called "the traditional contempt of revolutionary socialists to gradualism" (see my link on Jan 15, 07.52). To describe Sharp as ‘hard right’ as Harker does, is wholly inaccurate and, for those who enjoy the term, ‘biased’.