The distorted guitar sounds, the rough recording techniques and the simple song structures of the punk bands of the early 1970s like Clash and Sex Pistols have become icons. What was once a subculture condemned by political figures like Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan that occupied the dark, dingy basements of outcast groups of friends has become hugely popular with cultural relics now sold alongside royal family dish towels. Now in the 21st century, it remains difficult to define punk culture as the music and styles of the term differ. In combination with its politically polarizing and anti-establishment lyrics, performances and acts of rebellion, however, punk culture has become ripe for the academic limelight that subjects it to various forms of analysis and criticism. This has led to a whole discourse of postmodern interpretations of punk music, style, language, performance, art and politics.
Even so, little research is critical to connect the main actors, traits, and ideas of punk to world politics through a postmodern lens. This article will serve to problematize postmodern attributes of punk to argue that it was never really the anti-racist, counter-hegemonic, and sociopolitical resilient force that many academics and participants claimed. It has been found that some bands that do not share the same history of structural whiteness as those often highlighted in postmodern interpretations seem to form a counter-hegemonic culture based on lived experience and real discourse, however, as this article will show also do not fit postmodern categorizations.
This article has three sections (or verses). The first verse will introduce the concept of postmodernism and how it has been applied not only to punk but also to world politics, cultural studies, and music. Second, the connection between punk culture, music and world politics will serve to problematize attributes of punk, which is considered postmodern, in particular how different readings of punk culture either support or contradict the postmodern canon. Third, aspects of punk that contradict its previously ascribed postmodern attributes are expanded, with the anti-racist myth and individualized freedom of choice of culture at the center to further establish the connection with world politics. This article includes quotes from punk characters under the section headings so that they are central to the argument. As is often the case in academic punk study, punks seem far from the discussion and are not treated as an integral part. The citations continue to serve to represent the key points in each section and will continue to guide the reader through the section.
Verse One: Postmodern interpretations abound
To question anything and everything is punk rock for me. – Henry Rollins, former Black Flag singer, undated.
This section introduces key postmodern concepts from the 1970s. It specifically shows how postmodernism was applied to the concepts of world politics, cultural studies, and music. The purpose of this section is not to discuss the merits of postmodernity and whether it accurately describes the current state of the world. Rather, this section will serve to provide a more nuanced understanding of postmodernism as theory and cultural practice that is important and far-reaching but is still being debated. Although this article attempts to problematize the science that views punk as a postmodern phenomenon (see Moore 2004; Patton 2018), it cannot be refuted that postmodernism like punk remains controversial in debates about world politics and popular culture. This is an important trait shared by both postmodernism and punk and which is discussed at the end of this section.
In this article, the term “postmodern” is understood from two main tendencies. First, it suggests deconstructing the boundaries between “high” and “low” culture, using a practice called “bricolage” to recombine previously incompatible styles. In cultural studies, this breakdown of cultural differences has been traced back to the marketing of all cultural products in global capitalism (Harvey, 1989). In the music and art scene, postmodernism can be characterized by its intertextuality or its ability to (re) create with objects and images from the past by assigning aspects from earlier texts in both the modern and the “original” (Jameson, 1991: 280) -285). Second, it points to the rejection of universal viewpoints for understanding the world. This is particularly useful in the social sciences, where postmodernism is the deconstruction of metanarratives found in the earlier modern canon and replaced by localized, self-reflective, and contingent analyzes in search of the truth (Lyotard et al., 1984: 11 -23). . In addition, postmodern politics can mean a sense of revolutionary socio-political freedom of choice that is not based on class politics, but on the fragmented collection of identities and differences of new social movements (Melucci et al., 1989; Gitlin, 1995). While the virtues of postmodernism and its contributions to the broader social sciences and humanities are still being debated, its defining characteristics are important to understanding why it was applied to punk in the past.
These two central tendencies show why scholars have touched on the seemingly intrinsic qualities that punk shares with postmodernism, a culture defined by questioning the status quo with acts of rebellion and resistance. In fact, they became increasingly popular and were developed together in the 1970s and 1980s (Patton: 2018, 3). However, like the concept of postmodernism itself, there has been considerable debate over the postmodern characteristics of punk. Moore (2004) argues that competing tendencies within punk (e.g. nihilism, cynicism, sincerity, independence) are all responses to the same crises in postmodern society. While others have found only partial evidence to view punk as postmodern, the realities of its participants are subjective and difficult to classify as postmodern (Muggleton, 2000). The Subcultures Network at the University of Reading argues that punk can best be understood through its inherent points of tension such as avant-garde and popularism, artificiality and realism, or individualism and collectivism (Worley et al., 2016: 7). From previous work it should be clear that punk doesn’t exactly fit into a postmodern categorization. However, what constitutes something “postmodern” is still debated among leaders in theory, especially on issues of culture and music. Kramer (2002: 13-14) argues that postmodern theory contains “an incredibly imprecise musical concept”. In order to better understand what makes music “postmodern”, he suggests viewing postmodernism not as a historical period, but as one attitude This not only affects contemporary music practices, but also how we use music from previous generations .
In addition, punk science similarly argues that culture is best defined as ongoing attitude and no scene that temporarily occupied a certain space before the dissolution (Furness, 2012). Postmodernism and punk are considered ongoing Settings shows a way forward to more nuanced interpretations of the relationship between the two. This is especially important going forward, as while the definitions of postmodernism and punk remain elusive, their connection remains throughout the academic field.
Second verse: Problematisation of attributes of punk as postmodern in world politics
I don’t think punk ever really dies because punk rock attitudes can never die. – Billy Idol, former Generation X guitarist, undated.
This section will combine punk culture with music and world politics to show how different readings of culture can be either support or contradict the postmodern canon. Like postmodernism, punk was treated as a fad by scholars. The cultural scientist Steve Redhead (2019: 23-26) argued that punk occupies a certain moment in the history of pop and can not be seen as a culture in its own right, but as an extension of popular music culture. An argument that resonates with scholars who are reluctant to identify as postmodernists because the “post” implies a certain dependence or extension of modernity (Connor, 1997: 65). While this is certainly useful for analyzing pop music’s relationship to world politics, it is important to go beyond the characterizations of punk, which only reflect the infamous epitaph: punk is dead.
Hence, scholars should move beyond the general contexts that only associate punk music with broader cultural or political movements that are popular at any given time. The power of punk as an independent culture, its relationship to world politics and music and how this was interpreted as postmodern cannot be understood otherwise. Randall (2004: 1) argues that it is incorrect to say that “the power of music even can convince, force, resist or suppress ”; Rather, “the uses of music, the controls applied to it and the discursive treatment of it” should be treated in science. Furthermore, in writing in punk, Street (2003: 283) affirms the discursive power of music and argues that it is also important to analyze the mechanisms and practices that link music to politics. It is equally important to focus on the performers and performances themselves and treat them as an integral part of political and cultural movements.
Other scholars have also highlighted the important and highly political role that music plays within a culture in “everyday life”. You have noticed how punk can take on various forms of resistance (beyond music) in everyday life through language, attitude, style and social relationships (Kellner, 1995: 187). An example of this is local underground punk basement shows that occur outside the reach of hegemonic forces (i.e. major record labels and concert venues). Furthermore, Patton (2018: 3) links these forms of resistance with larger globalization movements of the late Cold War, arguing that punk and its everyday resistance successfully distanced themselves from hegemonic forces such as the emerging global and post-Cold War political order by using “Networks avoid, undermine or co-opt global capital ”. In terms of postmodernism, this is helpful for connecting punks with cultural practices like DIY (think repurposed instruments, patched leather jackets, and basement shows) with postmodern techniques like bricolage (the practice of recombining once incompatible styles and domains). Furthermore, Reddington (2004) identifies the rise of female instrumentalists in Britain in the 1970s to the DIY and “anyone can do” ethic of the punk rock movement. However, it is an oversimplification to see punk as the antithesis of the dominant, hegemonic culture of its time, which is so neatly packaged as postmodern.
Despite the ethics of culture that fit well into postmodern canons, such as DIY or “Anyone Can Do It” that empowers participants, punk is often complicit in the rise of the hegemonic power that continues the same people, who many claim, the culture marginalized empowered. This is a grave mistake in mapping punk to postmodernism, because while participants and scholars claim tolerance, inclusion and progressive thinking are at the core of the punk ethos, this article argues that this is not entirely true and only serves to serve one Anti-racist myth about punk culture. For example, Roger Sabin (1999: 204) writes on the history of punk and racism, noting that punk musicians remained silent despite the fact that people of South Asian descent were the majority of victims of racial murders in Britain in the late 1970s. There was a certain “ambivalence or even hostility towards Asians” in punk because Asian immigrants were perceived as rivals to the largely homogeneous white working class of Britain at the time. In addition, punk scholar Gerfried Ambroshch (2018) noted that punks and skinheads have three things in common: their fear, their disenchantment, and their dissatisfaction with mainstream society. Skinhead groups, which originated in the predominantly white working-class neighborhoods of 1960s London, were mostly made up of white British youth with deep-seated nationalist, neo-fascist, anti-Semitic and racist views – especially notorious in the 1970s for attacking Pakistani immigrants in London East End.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, those classified as immigrants, gays, feminists, and racial and ethnic minorities were attacked as scapegoats by the skinhead community and a small segment of punks (Ambroshch, 2018: 903). For example, the infamous British Nazi punk band “Skrewdriver” and their songs like “White Power” (1983), which are supposed to incite racism and violence against minorities in Britain, embody this strand of skinhead punks. However, it is important to distinguish this small part of the punks from the popular punk scene of the time, as many bands like Steel Pulse, the Tom Robinson Band and X-Ray Spex firmly condemned racism and anti-homophobia. This section has served to problematize postmodern categorizations of punk and its relationship to world politics. The next section will show how a more critical reading of punk and its history of racism further deconstruct the postmodern attributes of punk.
Third verse: The anti-racist myth and the individualized agency of punk culture
F ** k them for not helping me, for upsetting me about all this politics. – James Spooner, documentary filmmaker and co-founder of the Afro-Punk Music Festival, 2015.
The anti-racist myth of punk usually forms a popular narrative that looks like this: Many of the punk who held racist and fascist views realized that their anti-authoritarian struggle was against the hegemony of white capitalism and began to see the marginalized groups that they did formerly used as scapegoats as strong allies (Ambroshch: 2018). In a way, this seems to be true. For example, the founding of Rock Against Racism (RAR) and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) is evidence that many historians have “co-opted punk into a longer-term tradition of counter-cultural – left – dissent” (Sabin, 1999: 199). However, as this article also argues, both Sabin and Ambroshch ultimately believe that the punks’ reputation for being anti-racist and anti-fascist was a result of the ideological myth-making of the British music media and punk performers themselves reaction on the remarkable popularity of the racist National Front among white working class youth in the 1970s (1999: 200; 2018: 904). In line with the survey on the postmodern qualities of punk, this refers to arguments from critics such as Habermas and Ben-Habib (1981) who condemn postmodernism for being just one reaction to the modernist philosophical canon. This section will provide further evidence as to why postmodern readings of punk are wrong because they are used to create great narratives.
Scholars and commentators have linked this racist history of punk with the history of white outsiders and their identification with racial and cultural others (Mailer, 19: 2011). Because punks have historically come from white middle-class backgrounds, they are not exposed to the same marginalization as those who find them culturally appropriate. Therefore calls for “white riots” of the Clash (1977) or the self-identification of white punk pioneer Patti Smith as “nigger” in her song “Rock N Roll Nigger” (1978) are a choice, albeit extremely racist and misguided do not represent the structural racism, violence, or marginalization they face. Further examples of this are the co-opting of reggae music by white punks in Great Britain and the USA (Sabin, 1999) and the identification of MC5 with the black rebellion in Detroit (NPR, 2018).
As this article argues, the racist history of punk is often neglected by scholars who attribute it to postmodernism. This reading of punk reveals its contradictions to the postmodern canon, which differ from those of punk, which “arose through transnational conversations that arose parallel to postmodernism along avant-garde artistic networks that extended across the world” (Patton, 4th ed : 2018). However, this quote, depicting punk as a postmodern globalized phenomenon, is interesting in terms of world politics, as punk scholars have often described the history of punk as “a history of agency and empowerment that is often overlooked by traditional international relations” (Dunn, 2008: 193). . This reading of punk, specifically applied to world politics, further contradicts the postmodern interpretations of individual freedom of choice as “passive cacophony of language games in which everything that is solid melts in the air” (Gubrium and Holstein, 1995: 555). However, punk does present themselves as synonymous with individual agency (i.e. DIY) and resistance. It was marked by bold depictions of individual rebellion. For example, the son of late punk icons Westwood and McLaren, angry at the popularity of punk merchandise and mainstream appropriation, burned £ 5 million punk memorabilia on a boat on the Thames (Guardian, 2016). Bands that do not share the same history of structural whiteness as those highlighted in postmodern interpretations also seem to form a counter-hegemonic culture. As further elaborated, this is also a misleading interpretation of punk that ignores its structural whiteness.
The argument here is that it matters within punk culture fewer What A participant says and / or does and counts more than You do it. Dunn (2008: 200-208) argues that these acts of resistance can have desalinating effects in the rest of the world. He cites examples from Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East and argues that these individuals and groups “use the resources of the punk cultural field for freedom of choice and empowerment within international relations”. However, Dunn suggests that these cultures have borrowed punk (as if it were an entirely Western phenomenon) to support their own counter-hegemonial resistance. This is not an accurate representation as it reinforces the neoliberal claims that globalization is the “free” flow of goods, people and ideas. For example, the hugely popular Mexican punk band Los Monjo couldn’t get a visa to tour the US because they couldn’t afford to lose the $ 200 processing fee (Vice, 2014).
In addition, with rotating band members from Ethiopia, Mexico, El Salvador and China, the leader of the transnational punk band Gogol Bordello ironically expressed his contempt for US immigration and the ease that he, a white man from Ukraine (if still incredible ) Disadvantaged and racialized), was able to survive immigration compared to his bandmates: “When I arrive in the melting pot / I am classified as goddamn white … Now that I live in God, I know where / at some point it will be hard without a friend “(2005). The punk bands outside of the US and UK scenes, most commonly categorized as postmodern, had to develop their own form of punk resistance based on their own social resources and policies that were not borrowed from the West. However, this still represents a multitude of punk cultures that are located outside the postmodern canon, as their discourse is not performative, but rather represents a real everyday resistance to hegemonic forces.
Rather than interpreting punk and postmodernism as fully developed concepts, this article has treated them as related issues to argue that postmodern readings of punk, which portray culture as anti-racist, counter-hegemonial, and sociopolitical resilient, are wrong. The aim was to problematize Punk’s attribution to postmodernism and to question whether culture ever really was the anti-racist, counter-hegemonic, and resilient force that many claimed. For punk, as for postmodernism, the point is not that they are academic or cultural fads that only serve to improve the status quo (i.e. modern or mainstream pop music). Both the concept of postmodernism and the culture of punk are preserved. They will evolve through the broad support they receive from various academic, musical, and political scenes, such as the punk scholars cited in this article. However, the willingness of some punk bands, commentators, and scholars to view punk as a symbol of postmodernism is of great importance as it creates a misleading great narrative that punk culture, despite its structural whiteness, is anti-racist, counter-hegemonial, and sociopolitical resilient.
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Further reading on E-International Relations