The Clash, revolution and reverse

in Working for the clampdown
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This chapter seeks to examine the turbulent political context in which The Clash recorded their enduring body of work. The songs that the band crafted together provide a compelling account of the rise and ultimate triumph of the neoliberal project as the 1970s turned into the 1980s. While The Clash were one of the critical voices raised against this dramatic turn to the right, their political power was always compromised by their proximity to a corporate world they claimed to despise. As many bands before and since have learned, the culture industries have a facility for incorporation that diminishes the political valence and authenticity of even the most critical artists. In spite of the constraints of the corporate environment in which they were operating, however, The Clash wrote scores of songs that have retained a political resonance even today. The political power of the band derives ironically from previous cultural movements that they often claimed to loathe. In large measure, the enduring influence of The Clash comes from their rechanneling of the 1960s counterculture and the band should be seen then as heirs to that prior movement of radical cultural dissent.

Working for the clampdown

The Clash, the dawn of neoliberalism and the political promise of punk

Editor: Colin Coulter

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