Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing to the present, there has evolved a distinctive and largely cohesive system of thought associated with the punk subculture (often simply referred to as punk). Individualism, anti-authoritarianism, political anarchism, free thought, and ethics are concepts, among others, that are addressed by this philosophy. Punk ideology views the world and most in it as deeply corrupt and wrong. Punk thought usually achieves expression through punk music, fanzines, and spoken-word albums.
This article focuses on a perception of general punk ideology. For information on more specific types of punk ideologies see the section titled other punk ideologies. The rest of this article will use the word "punk" to refer to this generalised punk ideology or to a person who espouses this general take on punk ideology. Therefore, this article only provides a rough generalization of the philosophies of certain groups who identify themselves as punks and is not likely to completely represent the views of all or even the majority of those who do so.
Punk, since the mid-1970s, has been a movement of shock, rebellion and discontent. As time has progressed, punk has become an overt socio-political movement for some who identify themselves as punks. Bands like Dead Kennedys, Bad Religion, Crass, Conflict, Subhumans and many others helped to contribute to this ideological climate. In their lyrics, these bands expressed serious discontent with the systems and institutions that organize and control the world. They also offered analysis and potential solutions to the world's problems. This spirit is active to this day in punk music and has matured and expanded in its range.
The political ideology most often associated with punk is that of anarchism. A lot of punk activism has been done in support of anarchist goals. Whether a punk subscribes to anarchism or not, he or she almost certainly is discontent with his or her government. Punks are often very active in trying to change their governing political systems to some extent. When punks engage in activism their demands can usually be described as progressive. Despite the similarities punk may have with the left wing, many punks perceive the efforts of the left as ineffectual and sometimes just as objectionable as the right wing.
See songs on government.
In punk thought, authority corrupts humans to intolerable extremes. Police, religion, governments and any other institution that has the ability to coerce is seen as dangerous and despicable. Authority leads always to corruption and abuse. Punk ideas concerning authority derive in part from the political ideology of anarchism. Police brutality and institutionalized discrimination against punks also account for this stance on authoritarianism.
See songs on authoritarianism.
Conformity is viewed as dangerous social coercion which prevents people from seeing the true nature of society and forces people to be obedient to the desires of those who hold power.
See songs on conformity.
For many punks, the dissatisfaction they feel for the actions of their governments is so strong that they have developed elaborate conspiracy theories to explain the motivations of their governments. Some of these theories are plausible and are taken seriously. Others are blatant fantasies used to convey deep cynicism. Many songs have been written to express these theories - some serious, others satirical.
See songs on conspiracy theories.
Punk ideology uncompromisingly rejects the use of military force. The military is the most extreme form of authoritarianism. Militaries commit the most brutal crimes imaginable and are instruments of state power.
See songs on militarism.
The issues surrounding the act of compromising ones ethical parameters in exchange for personal gain are of particular relevance to punk ideology and culture. Generally, selling out refers to any abandonment of personal and/or community values in exchange for some reciprocal gain, usually in the form of wealth, status, or power. However, due to the direct association between punk rock music and punk ideology, this issue has taken on a specific meaning unique to the punk rock community.
Because anti-establishment attitudes are such an important part of this version of punk ideology, a network of independent music labels, venues, and distributors has slowly come into existence (see Do It Yourself), allowing parties interested in the creation, distribution, and purchase of independently-produced punk music to opt out of the major label system. These networks bypass the traditional systems of content distribution, which are controlled by a small number of large corporations who many feel stifle creative initiative and marginalize the concepts presented in punk ideology.
Often, up-and-coming or long-established punk artists will choose to break from this independent system and work within the established system of major record labels, incurring criticism from within the punk community. Some argue that through their choice, these artists have betrayed their communities and that as punk artists, their creative integrity is necessarily compromised. However, many artists have defended their actions, arguing that working through the major label system is a necessary evil to allow for the widest propagation of their artistic message. The band Chumbawamba is well known for using this justification when they signed on with the major label EMI.
See songs on selling out.
Many punk songs have lamented the conformity that religion inspires and the coercive authority of the church. Many punks are not religious and believe that religion offers more problems for humanity to deal with than solutions.
See songs on religion.
Most left-wing punks are contemptuous of their governments and do not express a great deal of patriotism. Furthermore, patriotism as devotion to the state conflicts with the anti-statism of anarchism. Punks often object to patriotism as being used as an excuse for governments to act in immoral ways.
Punks often portray the mass media as a dangerous instrument of social control. Television is, for the most part seen as a waste of time and a distraction from reality and healthier habits. Punk music often laments the commercialism and the power interests that control the media. The Do It Yourself punk ethic is a reaction to this perceived imbalance of power in the media.
See songs on the media.
Many punks are practicing environmentalists. "While there will always be different opinions coming from under the punk banner, the most evident environmental philosophy closely resembles something called 'Deep Ecology'"*. This is a non-anthropocentric form of environmentalism meaning it is a philosophy that sees humans as merely one of many species with no special importance. This idea of Deep Ecology is seen in the last lyrics to the Bad Religion song Modern Day Catastrophists:
- What makes you think you can cure our disease?
- Maybe it's just our biology,
- Maybe it's time to make room for another species,
- This is the 21st century
See songs on environmentalism.
Punk music is loud, fast, and usually didactic. The sound is meant to express impatience, frustration and discontent. It also expresses anger and aggression by being loud and fast. The rhythm is monotonous. Punk music intentionally defies the expectations that the listener has become accustomed to from listening to other, more commercial forms of music. The lyrics are usually sung too fast or loud to be understood by the listener who often must read them from the lyric sheet (usually supplied with the album) in order to understand them.
In the early 1980's, a very distinct Punk fashion became visible in the subculture. It expressed many of the things that punk music expressed: aggression, rebellion, individualism and so forth. This use of fashion being used as a way to be shocking may have been influenced in part by the Futurist. As the punk movement matured, fashion became less important as punk ideas became more important. Punk fashion has also received criticisms for being meaningless and for being conformist as the fashion grew in popularity.
Visual art is usually straightforward with a clear message. Album covers contain potent messages concerning social injustice, economic disparity, and images of suffering to shock and create a feeling of empathy in the viewer. Alternatively, they may contain images of selfishness, apathy, and other things that may provoke contempt in the viewer. Much of the earlier art work was in black and white. This was because earlier art was distributed in fanzines created at copy shops.
As explained in the other sections of this article, punk ideology sees the world as deeply corrupt. Because of this world view, a distinct system of beliefs has emerged from the punk movement which tries to explain the way people ought to behave in such a bleak world.
As the section on conformity pointed out, punks see this social phenomenon as deceitful and coercive. Being a nonconformist is one of the most obvious of all punk attributes. The unique, and to many abrasive, sound of punk music expresses not only aggression and discontent but also a refusal to sound mainstream or to sound acceptable to a wide audience. Punk fashion was originally expression of nonconformity with mainstream culure as well as that of hippie counterculture.
See songs on On Non-Conformity.
In the late 1970s, the punk movement was operating in an environment controlled to an unacceptable degree by outside influences. Because this impinged on the freedom of the movement, people in the punk scene began creating their own record companies, organizing their own concerts, and creating their own print media. This became known as the DIY movement. "Don't hate the media, become the media" is a famous motto for this movement.
Punks often participate in direct action to accomplish desired goals. In addition to protests, boycotts and so forth, punks are also known for the use of violence. More active and radical members of the community have been known to bomb gas stations, destroy animal research laboratories, and alter billboards to include political messages. Recently the phenomenon of hactivism has been used as an additional method of sabotage. These acts are committed in an effort to create social change when it is thought that the normal channels for change have been proven ineffective. Destruction of private property is often deemed acceptable by punks because it conveys a powerful message of disapproval without hurting people. Because Punks tend to disdain materialism, the destruction of someone else's private property does not receive much sympathy.
See songs on direct action.
Vegetarians, Veganism, and Animal Rights
Some who identify themselves as punks see the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, and research as an extension of the oppression committed against humans. Other punks unconcerned with the treatment of animals have also converted to vegetarians/veganism based on the belief that raising livestock destroys land and water resources. Some punks believe that the brutal way humans treat animals is psychologically connected to the way humans oppress each other. Another animal rights issue that punks are concerned with is vivisection and other types of experimentation conducted on animals for cosmetic and medical purposes. These practices have prompted protests from the punk community and the creation of direct action organizations like the Animal Liberation Front.
See songs on vegetarians, veganism, and animal rights.
Links to Songs
On The Decline Of Man
- A Commercial, Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- California Über Alles, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, Dead Kennedys
- Dear Abby, Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- Government Flu, Plastic Surgery Disasters, Dead Kennedys
- I Am The Owl, Plastic Surgery Disasters, Dead Kennedys
- Idiots are Taking Over, The War on Errorism, NOFX
- Murder the Government, Fuck The Kids 7"/So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, NOFX
- Glass War, 13 Stitches 7", NOFX
- Re-Gaining Unconsciousness, The War on Errorism, NOFX
- Stars and Stripes of Corruption, Frankenchrist, Dead Kennedys
- Heads Of State, Worlds Apart, Subhumans
- Holiday, American Idiot, Green Day
- You've Got To Die for Your Government, Die For the Government, Anti-Flag
- Perfect Government, Punk In Drublic , NOFX
- Against the Grain, Against the Grain, Bad Religion
- Individual, Stranger Than Fiction, Bad Religion
- Inner Logic, Stranger Than Fiction, Bad Religion
- Chickenshit Conformist, Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- Terminal Preppie, Plastic Surgery Disasters, Dead Kennedys
- Come Join Us, The Gray Race, Bad Religion
- Blenderhead, Against The Grain, Bad Religion
- Henchman, No Control, Bad Religion
- 180 Degrees, So Long and Thanks for All the Shoes, NOFX
- Stealth, Recipe for Hate, Bad Religion
- Kinky Sex Makes The World Go 'Round, Give Me Convenience Or Give Me Death, Dead Kennedys
On Concerns of Totalitarianism
- Get Off The Phone, Free Souls in a Trapped Environment , Citizen Fish
- Nazi Scum, In Defence Of Our Earth, Oi Polloi
- Bleed For Me, Plastic Surgery Disasters, Dead Kennedys
- Police Tv, The Massacre, The Exploited
On Vegetarians, Veganism and Animal Rights
- Pigman, Worlds Apart , Subhumans
- Nailing Descartes To The Wall, Less Talk, More Rock , Propagandhi
- Clams Have Feelings Too, Pump Up the Valuum, NOFX
- Flesh And Blood, Free Souls in a Trapped Environment , Citizen Fish
- Panic In The Supermarket, Millennia Madness , Citizen Fish
- Bleeding Heart Disease, Heavy Petting Zoo, NOFX
- Part III, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Bad Religion
- Atomic Garden, Generator, Bad Religion
- Let them Eat War, The Empire Strikes First, Bad Religion
- Rambozo the Clown, Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- All Good Soldiers, Recipe for Hate, Bad Religion
- Charity, Free Souls in a Trapped Environment , Citizen Fish
On Social Criticism
- People are Scared, Rats , Subhumans
- British Disease, Worlds Apart , Subhumans
- Apathy, Worlds Apart , Subhumans
- The Irrationality of Rationality, The War on Errorism, NOFX
On Selling Out
- Pull My Strings, Give Me Convience Or Give Me Death, Dead Kennedys
- Walking Contradiction, Insomniac, Green Day
- Faith in God, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Bad Religion
- Voice of God is Government, How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, Bad Religion
- Destined for nothing, The Process of Belief, Bad Religion
- American Jesus, Recipe_for_Hate, Bad Religion
- Moral Majority, In God We Trust Inc., Dead Kennedys
- Religious Vomit, In God We Trust Inc., Dead Kennedys
- Religious Wars, EP-LP_(album) , Subhumans
On The Media
- Only Entertainment, Generator, Bad Religion
- Television, Stranger Than Fiction, Bad Religion
- Fleshdunce, Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- M.T.V.--Get Off the Air, Frankenchrist, Dead Kennedys
- Triumph of the Swill, Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- Aversity, From the Cradle to the Grave , Subhumans
- Ecran Noir, Demain Sera , Heyoka (in French)
- Underground Network, Underground Network, Anti-Flag
- Dinosaurs Will Die, Pump Up The Valuum, NOFX
- Media Control, On the Front Line , The Casualties
- Modern Day Catastrophophists, Recipe for Hate, Bad Religion
- Modern Man, Against the Grain, Bad Religion
- Unacceptable, Against the Grain, Bad Religion
- Cesspools in Eden, Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- D.M.S.O., Bedtime for Democracy, Dead Kennedys
- Forest Fire, Plastic Surgery Disasters, Dead Kennedys
- Terra Y Libertad, Demain Sera , Heyoka (in French)
- Class War 2000, Ignite/Good Riddance Split 7", Good Riddance
- Got The Numbers, A New Kind of Army, Anti-Flag
- 911 For Peace, Mobilize, Anti-Flag
- Tearing Down the Borders, The Terror State, Anti-Flag
- One People, One Struggle, The Terror State, Anti-Flag
- Zapatista, Don't Give Up, Warped Tour 2001 compilation, Anti-Flag
Books on Punk Ideology
- O'Hara, Craig, The Philosophy of Punk, AK Press, 1999 ISBN 1873176163
Important People in Punk Ideology
- Penny Rimbaud
- Eve Libertine
- Joey Shithead
- Greg Graffin
- Colin Jerwood
- Jello Biafra
- Dick Lucas
- Fat Mike
- Steve Ignorant
- Brett Gurewitz
- Nick Blinko
- Boff Whalley
- Tim Yohannon
- Ian MacKaye
- Kathleen Hanna
Other Punk Ideologies
- Straight Edge Punk ideology
- OI Punk ideology
- Nazi Punk ideology
- Punk Manifesto by Greg Graffin
- The Official website for Subhumans and Citizen Fish
- The Official website for Bad Religion
- A very comprehensive site on Bad Religion that offers all song lyrics as well as contributed analyses of the songs.
- The Official website for Crass
- Maximum Rock and Roll Fanzine (See also Maximum Rock and Roll)
- A Search Engine For Punk Lyrics
- O'Hara, Craig, The Philosophy of Punk, AK Press, 1999 ISBN 1873176163
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