The Punk Rock Lifesgtyle
The Most Common ideologies and philosophies within the punk subculture.
Punk ideologies are a group of varied social and political beliefs associated with the punk subculture. In its original incarnation, the punk subculture was primarily concerned with concepts such as rebellion, anti-authoritarianism, individualism, free thought and discontent. Punk ideologies are usually expressed through punk rock music, punk literature, spoken word recordings, punk fashion, or punk visual art. Some punks have participated in direct action, such as protests, boycotts, squatting, vandalism, or property destruction.
Punk fashion was originally an expression of nonconformity, as well as opposition to both mainstream culture and the hippie counterculture. Punk fashion often displays aggression, rebellion, and individualism. Some punks wear clothing or have tattoos that express sociopolitical messages.
An attitude common in the punk subculture is the opposition to selling out, which refers to abandoning of one’s values and/or a change in musical style toward pop or more radio-friendly rock in exchange for wealth, status, or power. Selling out also has the meaning of adopting a more mainstream lifestyle and ideology. The issue of authenticity is important in the punk subculture, the pejorative term “poseur” is applied to those who associate with punk and adopt its stylistic attributes but are deemed not to share or understand the underlying values or philosophy.
Because anti-establishment and anti-capitalist attitudes are such an important part of the punk subculture, a network of independent record labels, venues and distributors has developed. Some punk bands have chosen to break from this independent system and work within the established system of major labels. The do it yourself (DIY) genre is common in the punk scene, especially in terms of music recording and distribution, concert promotion, magazines, posters and flyers. On religious issues, punk is mostly atheist or agnostic, but some punk bands have promoted religions such as Christianity, Islam, the Rastafari movement or Krishna.
Anarchism And Left-Libertarianism
There is a complex and worldwide underground of punks committed to libertarian socialism or anarchism as a serious political ideology, sometimes termed “peace punks” or “anarcho-punks.” Whereas some well-known punk bands such as the Sex Pistols and The Exploited sang about general anarchy, they did not embrace anarchism as a disciplined ideology. As such, they are not considered part of anarcho-punk. Notable anarchist punk artists include: Aus-Rotten, Dave Insurgent, Crass, Dick Lucas, Colin Jerwood, and Dave Dictor.
Some punks claim to be non-political, such as the band Charged, GBH and the singer G.G. Allin, although some socio-political ideas have appeared in their lyrics. Some Charged GBH songs have discussed social issues, and a few have expressed anti-war views. G.G. Allin expressed a vague desire to kill the United States president and destroy the political system in his song “Violence Now”. Punk sub-genres that are generally apolitical include: glam punk, psychobilly, horror punk, punk pathetique, deathrock and pop punk. Many of the bands credited with starting the punk movement were decidedly apolitical, including The Dictators, Ramones (which featured staunch conservative Johnny Ramone alongside left-wing activist Joey Ramone), New York Dolls, Television, Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and The Voidoids.
Christian punk is a small sub-genre of punk rock with some degree of Christian lyrical content. Some Christian punk bands are associated with the Christian music industry, but others reject that association. Examples of notable Christian punk bands include The Crucified and MxPx. Some Christian punk bands perform after a religious sermon is preached at a sanctuary type setting.
A small number are conservative or right-libertarian, rejecting anarchism, liberalism, communism and socialism in favor of free market capitalism, a minimal government and private ownership of property. Notable conservative punks include: Michale Graves, Johnny Ramone, Lee Ving, Billy Zoom, Joe Escalante, Bobby Steele and Dave Smalley. Notable punks who have expressed support for voluntarism or anarcho-capitalism include Joe Young and Jeff Clayton of the band Antiseen, Exene Cervenka, Mojo Nixon and Barry Donegan. Some Christian punk and hardcore bands have conservative political stances, in particular some of the NYHC bands. Iggy Pop campaigned for Ronald Reagan.
Taqwacore Punk a sub-genre centered around Islamic beliefs, its culture and its interpretation. The Taqwacore scene is composed mainly of young Muslim artists living in the United States and other western countries, many of whom openly reject traditionalist interpretations of Islam. There is no definitive Taqwacore sound, and some bands incorporate styles including hip-hop, techno, and/or musical traditions from the Muslim world.
In the 1990s, some notable members of the New York hardcore scene, including Ray Cappo (Youth of Today, Shelter and other bands), John Joseph (Cro-Mags) and Harley Flanagan (Cro-Mags) converted to Hare Krishna. This led to trend within the hardcore scene that became known as Krishna-core.
Liberal punks were in the punk subculture from the beginning, and are mostly on the liberal left. Notable liberal punks include: Joey Ramone, Fat Mike, Ted Leo, Billie Joe Armstrong, Crashdog, Hoxton Tom McCourt, Justin Sane, Tim Armstrong and Tim McIlrath. Some punks participated in the Rock Against Bush movement in the mid-2000s, in support of the Democratic Party candidate John Kerry.
Nazi punk, White Power Rock, Rock Against Communism
Nazi punks have a far right, white nationalist ideology that is closely related to that of white power skinheads. Ian Stuart Donaldson and his band Skrewdriver are credited with popularizing white power rock and hatecore, or Rock Against Communism.
Nazi punks are different from early punks such as Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux, who are believed to have incorporated Nazi imagery such as Swastikas for shock or comedy value.
In 1978 in Britain the white nationalist (White Nationalism), had a punk-oriented youth organization called the Punk Front. Although the Punk Front only lasted one year, it recruited several English punks, as well as forming a number of white power punk bands such as The Dentists, The Ventz, Tragic Minds and White Boss
Centering around a belief in the abject lack of meaning and value to life, nihilism was a fixture in some protopunk and early punk rock. Notable nihilist punks include, Iggy Pop, Sid Vicious and Richard Hell.
The Clash were the first blatantly political punk rock band, introducing socialism to the punk scene. Some of the original Oi! bands expressed a rough form of socialist working class populism often mixed with patriotism. Many Oi! bands sang about unemployment, economic inequality, working class power and police harassment. In the 1980s, several notable British socialist punk musicians were involved with Red Wedge. Notable socialist punks include: Attila the Stockbroker, Billy Bragg, Bruce La Bruce, Garry Bushell (until the late 1980s), Chris Dean, Gary Floyd, Jack Grisham, Stewart Home, Dennis Lyxzén, Thomas Mensforth, Fermin Muguruza, Alberto Pla, Tom Robinson, Seething Wells, Paul Simmonds, Rob Tyner, Joe Strummer, Ian Svenonius, Mark Steel and Paul Weller.
S. I. Punk
The Situationist International
This was allegedly an early influence on the punk subculture in the United Kingdom. Started in continental Europe in the 1950s, the SI was an avant-garde political movement that sought to recapture the ideals of surrealist art and use them to construct new and radical social situations. Malcolm McLaren introduced situationist ideas to punk through his management of the band Sex Pistols. Vivienne Westwood, McLaren’s partner and the band’s designer/stylist, expressed situationist ideals through fashion that was intended to provoke a specific social response. Jamie Reid’s distinctive album cover artwork was openly situationist.
Straight Edge Punk
Straight Edge And Hardline Subculture
Straight edge punk, which originated in the American hardcore punk scene, involves abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drug use. Some who claim the title straight edge also abstain from caffeine, casual sex and meat. Those more strict individuals may be considered part of the hardline subculture. Unlike the shunning of meat and caffeine, refraining from casual sex was without question a practice in the original straight edge lifestyle, but it has been overlooked in many of the later reincarnations of straight edge. For some, straight edge is a simple lifestyle preference, but for others it’s a political stance. In many cases, it is a rejection of the perceived self-destructive qualities of punk and hardcore culture. Notable straight edgers were Ian MacKaye and Minor Threat who put the straight edge music movement on the map, Tim McIlrath, Justin Sane, and Davey are others who promoted the straight edge lifestyle.
Criticism Of Punk Ideologies
Punk ideologies have been criticized from outside and within. The Clash occasionally accused other contemporary punk acts of selling out, such as in their songs “(White Man)” In Hammersmith Palais” and “Death or Glory”. Crass’s song “White Punks on Hope” criticized the late-1970s British punk scene in general and, among other things, accused Joe Strummer of selling out and betraying his earlier socialist principles. Their song “Punk is Dead” attacked corporate co-option of the punk subculture.
Dead Kennedys front man and always controversial Jello Biafra wrote many songs criticizing aspects of the punk rock subculture and he once accused the punk magazine Maximum Rock n Roll of “punk fundamentalism” when they refused to advertise his punk rock label “Alternative Tentacles” records because they said the records “weren’t punk”. The Misfits’ Michael Graves, a right-libertarian who co-founded the “Conservative Punk” website, argued that punks have become “hippies with mohawks”.
9 thoughts on “Common Punk Rock Ideologies And Philosophies”
you covered a whole lot of stuff here! i would add something that has come into popularity in the punk movement recently-within the last 10 yrs-gypsy punk. gogel bordello is the most popular of this movement but there are many others out there. their musical style is primarily based on traditional gypsy music with a punk attitude. also,psychedelic/experimental punk such as early butthole surfers and early sonic youth.
i am very happy to see gary floyd’s name in the article. he is an extremely nice guy and such a mover and shaker and usually over looked.
thank you for covering the genres so indepth! many of them overlap and due to punk ability to modify a band can swim from one genre to the next several times even in one album!
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Hey girl, Rich here! Yeah Gypsy punk is one of many sub-genres fussed out of the punk rock common genres. I covered the punk rock common genres and not the fusion sub-genres which could be another article and that would cover Gypsy Punk, Cow Punk, Folk Punk, Chicano Punk, Dance Punk, Jazz Punk, Celtic Punk and Two Tone Punk. Gypsy Punk is very unique, here’s an article on the latest trend. http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-05-07/news/gogol-a-go-go/
P.S. I am thinking of starting a zine. I’m really into the zine thing lately, there’s a whole sub-culture of people doing killer zines on every topic under the sun. Are you interested in writing shit for it on any topic your little heart desires? Here’s a link to a site: http://wemakezines.ning.com/
how can i say no??? you rock!!!!! i love writing zines!!! we had one in the early 90’s called pariah’s voice, and it gave us a good chance to reach contacts who would be cool and come play shows at our house! i do believe this is why i have an 18 yr old punk rock kid who refuses to listen to anything recorded post 1994 aside from the occasional band that is still doing shit like propaghandi or flag or tool.
yeah the subgenres…i am a huge huge huge hardcore old school fan! i was talking w the ted (he’s my ex and we all live together bc we are a tribe) who was hailed king o punk in the north tx scene back in the day. i bitch alot about music and shake my old fist “these kids today!!! that’s not emo!!! fucking listen to dag nasty, the descendants or rites of spring then come talk to me you little whippersnappers”-yeah i really say that to the dismay of the kids…hehehe. we would mostly break music up by label or geographical location. the bands on discord have a whole other sound than those on sst, etc etc. and say cali bands have an influential sound that is so different than tx punk -which of course i love mostly bc that is who i got to hang out w and had the most access to. then you have bands that overlap, like sister double happiness. gary floyd is a man of the punk cloth, and sdh has a tx sound w a cali sound and blues. that is just how we did it back then bc that is what we had. we lived in a town of like 100,000 ppl in north tx, and we would travel to dallas or our friends would travel to dallas and get compilations. we would scour the inserts and find the bands then go get their music. we listened to alot of really bad music but then there was jewels packed in there too. a.t. put out a ton of comps.
rich, where are you located? you can send that to my email. do you have a scene? we have no scene at all none nothing no music to be had in oklahoma!!! my best friend’s husband was in a band that was pretty big and they toured and shit but when they played here there were cops and ugliness. when i was growing up thankfully we had a coffee shop where we would play music out of and we got some pretty good bands to play for free. then that closed and so ted and i would have shows out of our house or his brother’s house which was an old bar w a house attached. but in lawton oklahoma the cops will torture you and fine you and bust the kids for bullshit! my friend and i have often talked that we want to do something, but we haven’t yet.
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Nazi punks are not punks. They dont belong with us.
I like that notion, thx!
Maybe someday this article will be able to list the memory of their belief system as the past and extinct.