Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Methodology of Punk Ideology

With the central understanding that punkers are producing their own culture, what ideas are they basing their creations on? In choosing the title of this study, I considered a slogan encompassing a certain criticism of the D.I.Y. politics of punk ideology, anarcho-punk, self-marginalization, and identity politics. The Dead Kennedys, one of the main punk bands of the late seventies and early to mid- eighties wrote many songs critical of established norms and mores of punk culture and ideology. Jell-O Biafra, the bands front man and main lyricist, also typified a type of progressive, albeit leftist political candidate when he ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1980. From the Dead Kennedys last album, Bedtime for Democracy I have chosen the song where do you draw the line?
Seems like the more I think I know the more I find I don't
Every answer opens up so many questions
Anarchy sounds good to me then someone asks, "Who’d fix the sewers?"
"Would the rednecks just play king of the neighborhood?"
 How many liberators really want to be dictators?
 Every theory has its holes when real life steps in
So how do we feed and make room for all the people crowded on our earth
And transfer all that wealth from the rich to those who need it.[1]
(Emphasis added)

Anarchy, in the above song, is significant because it includes everything a punk wants in political ideology, but at the same time leaves unanswered the questions brought about by self marginalization and identity politics. The main use of formal theory would be to construct a set of conditions from which we can explain how anarchy logically flowed from the music of punk and where the actions of punk ideology have taken its participants. That being the case, my methodology will include two types of data research. First and foremost, a strong basis of theory is needed to understand how certain primary questions should be answered. This approach will require an examination of the body of punk recordings and written material. The historical record is extensive as punk ideology has existed for over thirty years and continues to produce relevant political material in song, film, and text format. A systematic examination of records, zines, and video based on anarcho-punk is necessary to form the context of the second approach to data research. The second approach for how punk ideology and its effect on political systems will be measured will include interviews with participants in the punk music and political scenes, including performers, famous non-politicos, social and political activists, and punk music fans to determine how politics of punk ideology have shaped their outlook and activities. I will conduct online interviews and when possible, interviews in person, documenting these interviews on camera. An online survey of 1000 punk participants (fans, performers, members of the community) should be performed to quantify the voting trends associated with punk ideology. This brings the scope of this study from the abstract into the empirical combining a comprehensive measure between the establishment of marginalized punk culture and actual practical examples of how this culture impacts political systems. According to W. Philips Shively, research mix is often necessary to produce complete works of research. In the book, The craft of political research “normative philosophers are not required to provide evidence for all their assumptions leaves them free to devote more energy to other parts of their research”.[2] So there will be a mix between normative and empirical research with the types of research questions in this study. The questions asked will divulge a wide range of ideas to which punk ideology influences the voting activities. Do punks vote? How has political subject matter in music and media influence their actions and perceptions? Are punks apolitical? Will grant a foundation to the theoretical and other questions such as Did you vote in the last elections? Do you consider yourself to be “political”? Do you follow the news? Has a bands lyrics or political views ever influenced your purchasing decisions? These questions will focus the study into the data of the empirical.  In this research project I will also attempt to give an outline of the conservative, nationalistic, progressive, anarchist, and leftist movements historically associated with punk. My theory is that the influence of punk ideology is fleeting and does little to define the overall description of what politics are. Punk ideology has no direct impact on mainstream political movements but instead support periphery progressive non-mainstream candidates and causes.[3] If punk ideology, specifically anarcho-punk ideology had a stronger influence, historically more elections would have an anarchist candidate involved. There is a limited theory as too why anarcho-punk is fleeting and has less impact on political systems is because as critics, punks often choose to remove themselves from the system rather then participate in active change. [4] I bring up the song where do you draw the line to continue the basis for support of the self-marginalized against the rest of society in describing why anarchy comes from punk:        
Ever notice hard line radicals can go on star trips too
Where no one's pure and right except themselves
"I'm cleansed of the system." ( 'cept when my amp needs electric power)
Or-"the party line says no. feminists can't wear fishnets."
You wanna help stop war? well, we reject your application
You crack too many jokes and you eat meat
What better way to turn people off than to twist ideas for change
Into one more church that forgets we're all human beings[5]

There is an inherit elitism in the idea that individuals become self-marginalized as they are no longer participants in the collective mainstream.  This elitism often fosters a type factionalism based on differences of opinion or on conflict over deciding the best course of action towards reaching the same goal.

Anarchy in the UK: Two ideas on factionalism
An example of this factionalism can be seen in British anarchist ideology from the late seventies. A surge of popular interest in anarchism occurred during the 1970s in the UK following the birth of punk rock, in particular the situationist-influenced graphics of Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid, and that band’s first single, Anarchy in the UK. [6]
However, while this early punk scene appropriated anarchist imagery mainly for its shock value, the band/anarchist collective known as Crass, expounded serious anarchist and pacifist ideas after forming in 1977. As such, many anarcho-punks became either supporters of issues such as animal rights, feminism, the anti-war movement, the anti-globalization movement, and many other social movements, or accepted a direct action approach to nihilistic anarchism, robbing, looting, assault and general lawlessness and riot.[7] Though Crass espoused pacifism as a belief, this is not necessarily the case for all anarcho-punks, most favoring direct action, by its participants.[8] An example of the obvious differences between political anarchy and lifestylism, or anarcho-punk can be made by a comparison between the “punk bands” Crass with The Exploited as two different types of anarcho-punk bands in England. A sample of the lyrics from The Exploited’s song, “I believe in Anarchy” is representative of basic nihilistic anarchy where politics are seldom considered, except as a way of escapism and a justification of rebellion and violence: 
I believe in Anarchy, let's see you pogo!
I'm not ashamed of being a Punk
and I don't care and don't give a damn
and I don't care what you say
cause I believe in anarchy
I I I I'm not afraid
and I I I I I'm not ashamed
cause I still believe in anarchy
Go to a pub and pick up a byrd
you take her back for the casual fuck
you drive her home in your old mans car
but you have to go duchess cause you've got no doms
I'm not afraid of having a Fight
and I’m not ashamed about getting drunk
and I don't care what you say cause
I believe in Anarchy

In the case of CRASS who viewed anarcho punk in a different context Direct action, although considered by some to be violent action is almost always deemed appropriate and sometimes necessary within context by its participants[10]. Anarcho-punk has been highlighted as one of the social phenomena which took anarchism in the direction of identity politics, also described as lifestylism where ones daily lifestyle of dress, consumption, and idea became based on some form of personal political freedom.[11] Where you shopped, what you bought, whether you were a carnivore or vegetarian, or your stance on eco-friendly or fair trade consumption reflected upon your anarchist principles. That crossed over into the United States with the lifestylism of straight edge punk, vegan punk, and others. Problematically, lifestylism does not always translate into how someone votes.
Punk ideology and Punk Voter
            With Punk voter the ideology of punk societal rebellion is applied to today’s political situation in the United States. Punk Voter is a coalition of Punk bands, musicians, record labels and like minded organizations which aim to “educate, register and mobilize young voters.”[12] They are about uniting the different youth movements into one voice for political change. Punk Voter arose out of its organizers ethos that punks have “always spoken out and preached social change no matter whether their political orientation is left or right.”[13] Punk Voter also organized Rock against Bush a series of concerts which followed by CDs which were a compilation of songs from participating bands and DVD materials containing comedy skits as well as political video content. Punk Voter has three objectives: to activate punks and other young people to participate in elections. This objective focuses on getting young people to actually vote, to expose the chaotic policies of George W. Bush and his current administration. Punk Voter runs interactive and creative voter education programs by taking its message to the streets and including other interested groups, to build a coalition of informed voters who can “individually and collectively influence public policy”. [14]  I understand my research will not be all encompassing mostly because this subject is very broad with many sub genres and categories, but I believe my methodology is sound and a thorough study of available media will produce a substantial body of academic knowledge.

[1] Dead Kennedys Where  do you draw the line? 1986 Decay Music
[2] the Craft of Political Research W. Philips Shively
[3] O'Hara, Craig, The Philosophy of Punk, AK Press, 1999
[4] William Tsitsos, Rules of Rebellion: Slamdancing, Moshing, and the American Alternative Scene, Oct., 1999 Cambridge University Press

[5] Dead Kennedys Where  do you draw the line? 1986 Decay Music
[6]  Geoffrey Sirc,  Never Mind the Tagmemics, Where's the Sex Pistols? College Composition and Communication > Vol. 48, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 9-29
[7] William Tsitsos, Rules of Rebellion: Slamdancing, Moshing, and the American Alternative Scene, Oct., 1999 Cambridge University Press
[8] George Berger, The Story of Crass (Omnibus Press, 2006)
[9] The Exploited I Believe in Anarchy from Punk’s Not Dead 1981
[10] George Berger, The Story of Crass (Omnibus Press, 2006)
[11] Craig Turnwall, The apparent indeterminable classification of counterculture An essay on punk culture and thought
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.

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